UPDATE: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced March 15 that the Maryland person who died from rabies contracted the virus from an organ transplant. Authorities are trying to determine how the organ donor became infected.
Officials are investigating the death of a Maryland adult from rabies -- the state’s first case of human rabies since 1976.
The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said March 12 that it does not yet know how the person was exposed to the rabies virus. It declined to release more information about the individual, citing the need to protect family privacy.
Rabies is usually transmitted to people by animal bites. It infects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal unless treated.
Most rabies cases occur in wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. But the death of the Maryland resident underscores the need for pet owners to vaccinate their cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies, the health department said.
Rabies is rare in people. In the United States, 6,153 cases of rabies in animals and only two human cases were reported in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).