Pascual Soriano
The bite of a vampire bat can often transmit rabies, which proved fatal for a young migrant worker in Louisiana last year — the first vampire bat bite death on U.S. soil ever recorded.
By msnbc.com contributor
updated 8/11/2011 6:39:01 PM ET 2011-08-11T22:39:01

The United States has now recorded its first death from a vampire bat bite, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On July 29, 2010, a young Mexican migrant showed up to work at a Louisiana sugar cane plantation. He worked one day and then complained of fatigue, shoulder pain and numbness. By August 3 he’d been sent to a New Orleans hospital.

When he developed a fever and an elevated white blood cell count, doctors thought he might have encephalitis, or maybe meningitis. He didn’t. Doctors tested for HIV, syphilis, herpes, arboviruses, Lyme disease, autoimmune neuropathies and all came back negative.

Meanwhile, the 19-year-old was deteriorating. When he had trouble breathing, doctors placed a tube down his throat to help.

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Despite “True Blood’s” Louisiana setting, nobody thought of vampire bats because there are no vampire bats in the United States outside of zoos. But the young man had only just arrived in the United States. As an investigation later discovered, he had been bitten on the heel of his foot on July 15 while sleeping back home in Michoacán, a state in Mexico’s southwest.

The bat had transmitted rabies, a common complication from vampire bat bites in central and South America. Doctors did begin to suspect rabies — and the state’s public health office was duly notified, but it wasn’t until August 20 that rabies tests came back positive. He died on August 21.

Every person who had been in contact with him had to be found and notified. Some who had shared drinking vessels with him, for example, could have caught the disease. But according to CDC, so far there is no evidence anybody did.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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