UPDATE: March 15
A Maryland man whom the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed died of rabies contracted the disease from a kidney transplant, according to The Washington Post.
It was the first case in the state of fatal rabies since 1976.
Citing two unnamed sources familiar with the case, the report said the patient, a man in his 20s, died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington after receiving the transplant at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in 2011.
The report said that three people in other states received organs from the same Florida donor. Their conditions were reportedly unknown.
Transmission of rabies through organ or tissue transplant is said to be rare worldwide.
According to the Post, fewer than five cases of rabies are diagnosed each year in the United States and most occur through contact with infected animals.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that it has confirmed the first human death from rabies in the state since 1976.
To protect the privacy of family, no information about the victim has been released. As of March 12, there were also no details about how the individual was exposed to the virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rabies occurs in more than 150 countries/territories, and more than 55,000 people die from the virus each year, mostly in Asia and Africa.
WHO data shows that dogs are the source of the “vast majority” of human rabies deaths, and that wound cleansing and immunization within a few hours after contact with a suspected rabid animal can prevent death from the virus.
WHO also says that more than 15 million people annually receive a post-exposure rabies vaccination.
In Howard County, rabies is found in several species of wild animals, and even in cats.
If you suspect that you’ve been bitten or scratched by a rabid animal, wash your hands and consult a doctor immediately. Report all to the Howard County Health Department: (410) 313-1773 on weekdays and (410) 313-2929 on evenings and weekends.