WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene say someone died after contracting rabies through an organ transplant. The officials say the person was one of four patients who received an organ from the same donor more than a year ago. After discovering the deceased and the donor, who is also deceased, had rabies, officials say the remaining three recipients are receiving anti-rabies shots.
Officials say the Maryland Deparmtnet of Health and Mental Hygiene started investigating earlier this month after the organ recipient died and was found to have rabies. The person had not been exposed to any animals with rabies and officials "identified the possibility of transplant-related transmission of rabies, which is extremely rare," said health officials in a press release.
A laboratory analysis showed that the person and their donor had a racoon-type rabies virus, which can also infect other animals. CDC officials say only one other person in the United States is reported to have died from this type of rabies virus.
As for the original donor, CDC officials say the donor became ill and was admitted to a healthcare facility in Florida where he or she died. That's apparently when the donor's organs, including kidneys, heart and liver, were sent to recipients in that state, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland, say officials. Testing for rabies was not done nor did anyone believe rabies was the cause of the donor's death at the time, but rabies was recently confirmed as the cause after the investigation in Maryland, according to officials. The donor used to live in North Carolina, and officials believe the donor may have contracted rabies there.
CDC officials say they are working with healthcare officials in five states to find people who were in close contact with the initial donor or the organ recipients so they can receive "rabies post-exposure treatment."