Rabies Deaths in 2021, Highest in Decade

Rabies Deaths in 2021


The rabies deaths in 2021 are the highest they have been in a decade. 5 people died of rabies in the US in the Fall of 2021. While that may not sound like a lot, it IS significant considering that it’s the highest number in a decade. One wonders why all of a sudden now is there an uptick?  In a previous blog, I wrote about a man in Idaho who died in October’21 of rabies after being bitten by a bat. He was the first deadly case of rabies in the state of Idaho since 1978. The others who died incude an 80 year old man in Illinois who did not want to get the post-exposure shots reportedly because he feared vaccines; a boy in Texas; a man in Minnesota who apparently got the shots but had an underlying issue with his immune system and a person who was bitten by a rabid dog in the Phillipines, returned with rabies and died in a hospital in New York.

Because 2021 experienced the highest number of rabies deaths in a decade, the CDC issues an alarm, most likely to raise awareness. According to the National Rabies Surveillance Network, there hasn’t been an increase in rabid bats, which is a good thing, although it raises the question as to why there were a high number of deaths in 2021. Some public health officials feel it’s a lack of awareness of risk. It could also be that someone might not know he/she was bitten by a bat. Sometimes bat bites don’t leave a mark so you don’t know, but you might find a sick/dead bat somewhere in your home. My advice is that if you find a sick/dead bat in your house and it’s a possibility you were bitten, get the bat tested by the appropriate public health authorities for peace of mind. If the bat tests positive, go to the hospital and get post-exposure treatment. Don’t gamble with rabies. It will kill you.

On that note of gambling with rabies…it’s worth pointing out that the cost for post-exposure treatment for rabies has increased by 400% over the last year. There are reports of folks realizing the cost of post-exposure treatment after a bat bite and putting it off or trying to avoid it, because of the high cost. I covered the issue with post-exposure cost in this blog, something I didn’t know much about until my parents had to get post-exposure treatment after being exposed to a rabid kitten that died in my father’s arms. My dad is a veterinarian so the cost was covered by his practice, but the cost can run a person up in the thousands. I’m talking about bills between 10-25,000 dollars. Hopefully the folks who died didn’t put off post-exposure treatment because of the cost, because that would just be another deplorable example of how our for-profit medical system destroys people.

The good news is that if you get bit by a rabid bat, or a rabid anything, and get the post-exposure treatment as soon as possible, you’ll most likely be fine. But you have to get it. Symptoms can present 3-7 weeks after exposure.

By the way, do you know who is the first known person to survive a bite from a rabid bat without getting the vaccine post-bite? Her name is Jeanna Giese and it happened when she was a teenager n 2004 in Wisconsin. I wrote about her story for one of my “Medical Trivia” tidbits, and you can read it here. It’s fascinating.

In addition to rabies deaths in 2021:

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