The U.S. has experienced its very first death by vampire bat bite. But far from being a moment to celebrate, this is a moment to worry about. (R.I.P., man in Louisiana who died of a vampire bat bite that gave him rabies — that sounds terrible.) So, what does this mean for the rest of us? As The Week asks, is this “a growing trend?” How much should you worry about this happening to you? Let us investigate, unscientifically.
First off, The Week, a trend requires 3 or at least 2 and a half things to happen all in about the same time period. Take today’s example from the New York Post, which explores the trend of e-cigarettes. There are not one but several users exemplifying the trend. In the case of vampire bat bite deaths, there is but one! Right away, any trend status is dubious. Just because something is scary (see drowning in elevators) that does not make it a trend. Which is a relief!
Let’s move on to science. The basic story is this. Vampire bats, who live in Latin America, may be coming north. Scientists say this is because their normal southern habitats have gotten uncomfortably hot. This may or may not be the fault of humans, but probably is. And, since no one enjoys flying these days, vampire bats may want to bite the humans who basically ruined their comfy Latin American habitats when they get here. Thus: We should not be not worried. Still, currently, New York bats do not suck blood.
But, the man was bitten in Mexico 10 days before he arrived in Louisiana, so while the death from the bite took place in the U.S., the bite did not. Further, rabies, whether from vampire bat bite or raccoon or your uncle, only averages one or two cases a year in the U.S. (It used to be hundreds, back in the 1900s.) If you are bitten by a vampire bat, you should get checked out right away, because rabies can be treated before symptoms develop. You will not actually turn into a vampire. And you could very well survive.
All this seems to indicate that while a vampire bat bite would definitely be traumatic and dangerous, it is probably avoidable, and certainly not a trend. So don’t worry too much, at least not air conditioners falling on your head levels of worry. YET. Also, the street cred on surviving a vampire bat bite, we can only speculate, would be the stuff of great trend pieces.
Death from vampire bats: A growing trend? [The Week]