-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Rabies caused the death of
an organ transplant recipient in Maryland, and three other patients
who received organs from the same donor are getting anti-rabies
shots, government health officials announced Friday.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, the agency and Maryland health officials have confirmed
that the patient who died in early March contracted rabies from the
donated organ. The transplant was done more than a year ago.
The length of time the patient took to develop rabies symptoms
was much longer than the typical rabies incubation period of one to
three months, but is consistent with previous reports of long
incubation periods, officials said in a statement.
Both the organ donor and the recipient had a raccoon-type rabies
virus, according to the CDC's preliminary analysis of tissue
samples. This type of rabies infects not only raccoons, but also
other wild and domestic animals. In the United States, only one
other person is reported to have died from raccoon-type rabies
In 2011, the organ donor became ill, was admitted to a hospital
in Florida and then died. The donor's organs, including the
kidneys, heart and liver, were transplanted into recipients in
Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland.
At the time of the donor's death, rabies was not suspected as
the cause and testing for rabies was not performed, the CDC said.
Rabies was confirmed as the cause of the donor's death only after
the investigation into the Maryland patient's death began.
The donor moved to Florida from North Carolina shortly before
becoming ill. Officials are investigating how the donor may have
been infected with rabies.
The three other people who received organs from the donor are
being evaluated by doctors and are receiving anti-rabies shots. The
CDC is working with health officials and health care facilities in
Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland and North Carolina to identify
people who were in close contact with the donor or the four organ
recipients and might require treatment.
The CDC said that, "all potential organ donors in the United
States are screened and tested to identify if the donor might
present an infectious risk." However, since rabies is now so rare
in the United States, "laboratory testing is not routinely
performed, as it is difficult for doctors to confirm results in the
short window of time they have to keep the organs viable for the
recipient," the agency explained.
Typically, only one to three cases of rabies are diagnosed each
year in the United States. The disease is most often transmitted
through the bite of an infected animal. In the United States, bats,
raccoons, skunks and foxes are the most commonly reported rabid
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how
protect your family from rabies.
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