Health and Medicine

5 people died of rabies in the U.S. in 2021

By Catherine Garcia, The Week

In 2021, five people in the United States died of rabies — the highest number in a decade.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system of mammals. It is most often transmitted via the bite of a rabid animal — typically bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes — and is usually fatal within a few weeks of symptoms starting. Death can be prevented by receiving a series of five shots that are administered within two weeks of exposure.

In a report released Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that three of the 2021 deaths could have been prevented, but the victims — who were all bit or scratched by bats — did not want the shots. One of the men who died, an 80-year-old from Illinois, refused the shots due to a fear of vaccines. The other two, a man from Idaho and a boy from Texas, didn’t think the bats broke their skin, and felt the shots weren’t necessary.


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