A Cape man diagnosed with rabies the week of 26 December 2011 is alive and fighting the deadly virus, according to health officials. As of 3 January 2012 morning, the unidentified Barnstable man, in his 60s, remained in critical condition at a Boston hospital, said Barnstable Health Director Thomas McKean.
The diagnosis confirmed the first human case of rabies in Massachusetts in more than 75 years. State health officials also confirmed on 3 January 2012 that the man contracted the virus from a species of Myotis bat. The small, brown mammals are common in Massachusetts, said state Department of Health spokesman John Jacob. The man’s wife has been released from the hospital following precautionary vaccinations and was staying with friends, McKean said. The man was apparently bitten in the couple’s Barnstable home months before exhibiting symptoms.
The Barnstable man is the fourth confirmed human infected by the rabies virus in the United States in 2011, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. A rabies diagnosis is usually considered fatal; however, a treatment developed in the last decade has helped cure a handful of patients. The “Milwaukee protocol” is a pioneering medical procedure in which doctors sedate patients into a coma-like state to give them time to build antibodies to fight the virus. The procedure was developed by Dr. Rodney E. Willoughby, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. It was first used successfully in 2004 to save a Wisconsin teenager from the almost certainly fatal virus. She was the first person to survive infection without prior immunization, and since then, five more have also been saved.
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