Three other organ recipients from the same donor as the man are undergoing tests for rabies by the Centers for Disease Control. The three people are being treated for the disease as a precaution. A heart and lungs were among the other organs donated.
CDC officials discovered the same strain of rabies in tissues from both the organ donor and the recipient who died.
Apparently it is reported by Barbara Reynolds of the CDC that the donor had signs of encephalitis or brain swelling at the time of death but was not tested for rabies because of the rarity of the illness and the length of time it would take for the test to be conducted. The official cause of death of the organ donor is apparently not common knowledge at this point.
There is a short window of opportunity when organs are usable for transplant and testing everyone for rabies would simply take too long thus making the organ transplant impossible.
Rabies is pretty rare in America. Thousands are exposed to the illness but if treated with preventative measures and vaccines they will not contract the infection. However, if the virus is untreated it is almost always deadly.
This is not the first case of an organ recipient losing their life after receiving an organ from their donor who was infected with rabies. In 2004, there were three people who died in Texas.
Doctors are baffled to say the very least at this current case because of how long it took for the man to show any symptoms. Rabies usually has an incubation period of one to three months. The Maryland man who received the infected kidney showed no signs of the disease for 16 months after the transplant.
Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital who was not involved with this case, said that it was not uncommon to transplant organs from a donor that was suffering an unspecified infection with symptoms such as encephalitis. "This is an unusual situation, no one knows if there's 100 percent transmission of rabies from donor to recipient," said Segev.
We’re taught to believe that there is always something good in something bad. In cases like these, receiving an organ can certainly turn into a mixed blessing.