Organ Donor Dies of Rabies; Transplant Recipient Receiving Anti-Rabies Shots

SPRINGFIELD – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today laboratory testing confirmed a person who died and donated organs in 2011 and one of the organ recipients recently died of rabies. Three other people received organs from the same donor, including one recipient in northeastern Illinois. The recipient has no symptoms of rabies, but has started anti-rabies shots as a precaution. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with local health departments, is working to identify any hospital personnel who may need post-exposure prophylaxis, in consultation with CDC.

“There is no ongoing threat of rabies to the public associated with this situation,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “The Illinois Department of Public Health will continue to work with the CDC and local health departments to monitor the health of the Illinois recipient and determine the need for rabies treatment in hospital personnel.”

Transmission of rabies from person to person is highly unlikely and only occurs when a person has contact through their eyes, nose, mouth or a break in the skin with saliva, tears or neural tissue (nervous system) of a person infected with rabies.

Transmission of disease via organ transplantation is very rare. The vast majority of transplant-transmitted infections happen within three months of transplantation. People who have had a recent organ transplantation and are concerned about infection should speak with their health care provider.

All potential organ donors in the United States are screened and tested to identify if the donor might present an infectious risk. Organ procurement organizations are responsible for evaluating the suitability of each organ donor. The benefits from transplanted organs generally outweigh the risk for transmission of infectious diseases from screened donors.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain if not given anti-rabies shots promptly.


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