The first reported case of human rabies linked to a vampire bat was reported today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The case, which happened about a year ago, resulted in the death of a 19-year-old man from Mexico.
In the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the case went down this way: The man's mother said her son had been bitten on the heel of his left foot while he was sleeping. The man, who has living in Michoacán, Mexico, apparently never reported the bite or was treated for it. Ten days later he traveled to Louisiana to work at a sugarcane plantation, where after one day of work he got medical help for a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, pain in his left shoulder and numbness in his left hand.
The man's symptoms persisted, and while being treated at a hospital a spinal tap revealed a slightly elevated white bloodcell count and he was admitted to the intensive care unit, as doctors suspected he might have Guillain-Barré syndrome (an autoimmune disorder that can cause nerve damage).
Things got worse from there: The man developed a fever of 101.1 and had respitatory problems, then his pupils became fixed and dilated, his white cell count jumped and an EEG showed encephalitis. Tests for various diseases including HIV, syphilis and Lyme disease came back negative, but health officials suspected the root of the problem was rabies, although no animal exposures to the disease were known about at the time.