Farm worker dies from vampire-bat rabies

THE US has reported its first death from a vampire-bat rabies virus after a Mexican farm worker developed encephalitis.

The 19-year-old sought health care in Louisiana for fatigue, shoulder pain and left-hand numbness after one day’s work at a sugar plantation.

He was admitted to hospital but deteriorated, ending up in ICU with suspected Guillain-Barré syndrome. After further deterioration and a second lumbar puncture, a diagnosis of rabies was made based on clinical history and available data.

The man’s mother stated that while he was sleeping he was bitten on his heel by a bat in the month before his death.

Post-mortem brain tissues detected the rabies virus antigen, and subsequent molecular tests confirmed the vampire bat rabies virus variant.

MMWR 2011, online 12 August