SALT LAKE CITY— State health officials say a Utah resident has died from rabies for the first time in over seven decades.
The Department of Health says the victim died earlier in November and that the death is the first of a Utah resident since 1944.
No information was released about the victim, their residence or circumstances of the person’s infection as the department is seeking to protect the identity of the deceased resident and their family.
The department says bats are the most likely source of exposure to rabies for Utah residents, and officials say people who should not touch, hit or kill bats.
According to a press release from the department, residents “may contract rabies through a bite, scratch, or saliva from the infected animal. Due to the presence of virus in some fluids such as saliva, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), tears, and respiratory tract fluids, it is theoretically possible for a person to spread rabies to another person through contact with these body fluids.”
“If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit, or kill it,” said Dallin Peterson, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) in a press release.
Historically, 15 to 25 bats test positive for rabies each year in Utah, many of which are submitted for testing after exposure to pets or humans has occurred.
In recent years there have been a few bat incidents in northern Utah, the most recent occurred in September 2017 when hundreds of bats took up home in Layton High School’s auditorium and several students had to be tested for rabies.
In 2015 a couple of rabid bats were found in Huntsville.
Associated Press contributed to this report.