A 19-year-old migrant farmer from Mexico has become the first person in the United States to die from a vampire bat bite, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday.
The unnamed teenager died about two weeks after a vampire bat bit him in his native Michoacan, Mexico. The incident happened a few days before the boy left to work the sugarcane fields of a Louisiana plantation.
"This case represents the first reported human death from a vampire bat rabies virus variant in the United States," said the CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality weekly report.
The 19-year-old, who was bitten in the heel, had never received a rabies vaccine. After one day of working in the fields, he began experiencing fatigue, shoulder pain, a drooping left eye, and numbness in his left hand. The teen later developed a 101.1-degree fever and respiratory distress, AFP has reported.
He was taken to hospital where his condition worsened. His brain started to swell and on August 20, samples of his spinal fluid confirmed he was infected with rabies.
The young man had contracted a particularly aggressive form of the disease and a subsequent brain scan revealed major damage. His family decided to take him off life support and the teen died shortly after, AFP has reported.
Further postmortem tests on his brain tissue revealed the strain of rabies came from a vampire bat, according to CDC officials.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns Americans to avoid contact with vampire bats and to get vaccinated.
Vampire bats are usually found in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina; however, “Research suggests that the range of these bats might be expanding as a result of changes in climates,” the CDC reported.
It said, "Expansion of vampire bats into the United States likely would lead to increased bat exposures to both humans and animals (including domestic livestock and wildlife species) and substantially alter rabies virus dynamics and ecology in the southern United States."
According to the CDC, all who had been in contact with teen had been notified but there is no evidence of anyone else contracting the disease.