BALTIMORE _ The first Marylander to contract rabies since 1976 developed the virus through an organ transplant that took place more than a year before the victim recently died of the disease, Maryland health officials said Friday.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests performed since the Marylander's death showed that the organ donor died of rabies, and the same type of rabies was found in both the donor and the recipient of the organ.
Health officials did not release any further details on the circumstances of the organ transplant, the donor or the recipient. CDC officials are working with public health officials and health care facilities to investigate how the donor contracted rabies and whether there are any others surviving with the donor's organs.
Maryland's health department had announced the rabies death earlier this week, cautioning people around the state to take care around wildlife and to report any animal bite to health officials. Rabies cases have grown rare, with five or fewer reported nationally over the past decade, largely because of effective preventive treatments given after an animal bite occurs.
Rabies has been known to spread via organ transplant surgeries in the past. In 2004, the CDC confirmed diagnoses of rabies in three organ recipients who all received organs from a common donor. The donor was an Arkansas man who visited two Texas hospitals complaining of mental health problems and a low-grade fever, according to the CDC. His liver and kidneys were passed along to organ recipients, who each died.
The type of rabies both the organ donor and recipient had is known to come from raccoons but can also be found in other animals.