SALT LAKE CITY — A Utahn has died from rabies, the first death of its kind in the state since 1944.

It is believed the person who died, whose identity of county of residence was not released, had been near a bat, according to the Utah Department of Health, which on Thursday confirmed the cause of the death.

Bats are the most common reason people and animals in Utah come in contact with rabies, health department officials said. A bite or scratch from a bat may not be felt, as a bat’s teeth and claws are very small.

Rabies is nearly always fatal once symptoms develop.

“If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit or kill it,” said Dallin Peterson, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health. Anyone who has come into contact with a bat, or wakes up with a bat in the room, needs to get medical help or contact the local public health department immediately.

A person may contract rabies through a bite, scratch or saliva of the infected animal and it is theoretically possible to spread rabies to another person through contact with bodily fluids, such as spit, spinal fluid, tears and respiratory tract fluids, according to the health department. Rabies is not found in urine, blood, serum or feces.

An estimated 40,000 people in the United States get preventive treatment for rabies after a bite or scratch from a dog or cat that might not be up-to-date on vaccinations. The Utah Department of Health advises keeping up on rabies vaccinations for all domestic animals, not only for the sake of human owners, but to avoid the heartache of unnecessarily euthanizing or treating pets.

The health department advises people to not approach wild animals or strays, which can also carry the highly contagious and fatal viral disease.

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Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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