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Bat Rabies Blamed for Four Deaths

January 15, 1998

ATLANTA (AP) _ Four people died of rabies from bats last year in the United States, two of them after failing to seek medical attention that could have saved their lives, the government said Thursday.

The deaths took place in Montana, New Jersey, Texas and Washington. All four victims were men.

A man from Houston died Oct. 17 a few months after waking up in a hotel room to find a bat on his shoulder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. He saw no bite mark and did not report the incident.

A man in New Jersey died that same month after twice capturing bats by hand in his apartment in July. He also failed to report the contact.

People should seek treatment as soon as possible after being bitten or coming in contact with a bat or any other potentially rabid animal, the CDC said. Shots given before symptoms start can prevent rabies.

Rabies is usually fatal once the symptoms appear. They include pain around the bite wound, paralysis and difficulty swallowing.

Since 1980, 21 of the 36 rabies cases diagnosed in the United States have been linked to bats. Typically there are four rabies deaths a year.

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