First Human Rabies Case Since 1997 Reported in Harris County

A Humble High School student is fighting for his life after being infected with the rabies virus from a bat bite. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, it's the first case of human rabies in Harris County since 1997.

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The victim was exposed to the virus when a bat entered his room while he was sleeping about a month ago. Not knowing he had been bitten, the high school sophomore didn't undergo a vaccination treatment that's usually effective in combating the virus that affects the central nervous system. The Harris County Health Department's Rita Obey says symptoms don't usually show up for quite some time after the initial exposure.

"Usually it goes between one month to three months before a person begins to exhibit symptoms after having been bitten. Unfortunately once you have developed symptoms then basically all we are able to provide is supportive care."

Between 1990 and 2005, there were only 48 cases of human rabies reported in the United States. Obey says human to human rabies exposure is extremely rare.

"There are no documented cases of human to human transmission of rabies, with the exclusion of course of transplants and organ donations. Basically, you are not going to get rabies simply by being in the same room with someone. There really has to be some transmission of saliva."

In Texas, the five high risk wild animials for rabies are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes. Obey says health officials are interviewing students at the high school the victim attends to make sure others don't need to undergo rabies vaccinations.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...