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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Sep 2;60(34):1164-6.

Human rabies--Wisconsin, 2010.

Erratum in

  • MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011 Sep 23;60(37):1284.


In late December 2010, a male resident of Wisconsin, aged 70 years, sought treatment for progressive right shoulder pain, tremors, abnormal behavior, and dysphagia at an emergency department (ED). He was admitted for observation and treated with benzodiazepines and haloperidol, a neuroleptic, for presumed alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The next day, he had rhabdomyolysis, fever, and rigidity, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome was diagnosed. The neuroleptic was discontinued, but the patient's clinical status worsened, with encephalopathy, respiratory failure, acute renal failure requiring hemodialysis, and episodes of cardiac arrest. With continued clinical deterioration, additional causes were considered, including rabies. On hospital day 12, rabies virus antigens and nucleic acid were detected in the nuchal skin biopsy and rabies virus nucleic acid in saliva specimens sent to CDC. A rabies virus variant associated with silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) was identified. The patient died on hospital day 13. His spouse reported that they had been selling firewood, and bats had been present in the woodpile; however, the man had not reported a bat bite. Two relatives and five health-care workers potentially exposed to the man's saliva received postexposure prophylaxis. This case highlights the variable presentations of rabies and the ease with which a diagnosis of rabies can be missed in a clinically challenging patient with comorbidities. Clinicians should consider rabies in the differential diagnosis for patients with progressive encephalitis or neurologic illness of unknown etiology and caregivers should take precautions to avoid exposure to body fluids. Continued public education regarding risks for rabies virus exposure during interactions with wildlife, particularly bats, is important.

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