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Rabies death is first traced to Contra Costa County in 2 decades

The 34-year-old man died in Switzerland in July after touching an infected bat in the southern part of the county in March. He became ill before leaving the United States to work overseas.

October 06, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

A 34-year-old man died in Switzerland this summer from rabies contracted from a bat in Contra Costa County — the first such death traced to the county in nearly 20 years, officials announced Friday.

The man, whose name has not been released, became ill before leaving the United States to work overseas. He died in a hospital in July, according to Contra Costa Health Services.

Tests confirmed rabies as the cause of death.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified of the death in late August and launched an investigation. It concluded the man had probably been infected in March after touching a bat in southern Contra Costa County, said Erika Jenssen, head of Contra Costa Public Health's communicable disease program.

"Tragically, this man died from rabies," Jenssen said. "It's critical that people who have been bitten by bats or wild animals seek medical attention immediately."

Three bats tested positive for rabies in the county this year. Last year in California, 211 of 223 animals that tested positive for rabies were bats, said Curtis Fritz, state public health veterinarian with the California Department of Public Health.

Contra Costa County's last fatal rabies case was in 1993, involving a man who had been bitten by a rabid dog in Mexico.

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