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Raccoon Rabies Transmitted Through Organ Transplant Linked To Death Of Man, Organs From Infected Donor Went To Three Others

Mar 15, 2013 11:44 AM EDT

A person has died after contracting rabies through an organ transplant received last year, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC did not identify the patient, but CNN reported the patient to be a man from Maryland.

The man and three other people received organs from the same donor.

The donor died in 2011 and had organs, including the kidneys, heart, and liver removed and transplanted to patients in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland. At the time of the donor's death, rabies was not suspected to be involved the death and the donor was not tested for the disease, the CDC reported.

Testing for rabies is not routine unless the disease is expected to be related to the cause of death; the time necessary to identify and confirm rabies could easily lead to the organs intended for donation to become unviable.

The CDC has confirmed both the organ donor and the deceased recipient had raccoon-type rabies. How the donor may have contracted rabies is currently under investigation. Officials believe the donor contracted rabies in North Carolina before moving to Florida. Transplant-related transmission of rabies is extremely rare, the CDC said.

Raccoon-type rabies can infect not only raccoons, but also other wild and domestic animals. In the United States, only one other person is reported to have died from a raccoon-type rabies virus, according to the CDC.   

The three other people who received organs from the donor have been identified and are currently being evaluated by their health care teams and receiving rabies anti-rabies shots, the CDC reported.

Read the full CDC report here.

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