The CDC reported Friday that a kidney transplant recipient died after becoming infected with rabies from their donor organ.
Doctors perform around 28,000 organ transplants annually in the U.S. Organ donors are tested for a variety of diseases, including hepatitis, HIV, and syphilis. World-wide, fewer than 1 percent of organ donations result in transmission of infection. However, rabies virus is not typically tested for, as the tests take a long time to conduct and cases of the virus are rare.
The donor in this case lived in Florida, and showed no signs or symptoms of rabies. Three others who received organs from this donor are currently being vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a virus transmitted by contact with infected blood or saliva. It is typically spread by bites from infected animals. Species that carry the virus include raccoons, foxes, and most famously, bats. If caught early, rabies infections can be treated with vaccines. But once a patient begins to show symptoms of the disease, it is fatal in almost all cases.