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16 Mar 2013

Multi-state Epidemiological Rabies Investigation (Florida Health Dept., March 15 2013, edited)

[Source: Florida Department of Health, full text: (LINK).]

Multi-state Epidemiological Rabies Investigation

By editor01 on March 15, 2013


The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is working alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a multi-state epidemiological investigation related to the rabies death of an organ transplant recipient. The deceased was one of four individuals who received an organ from a single donor. The donor became ill, was admitted to a health care facility in Florida and died in late 2011.

The donor was a previous resident of North Carolina where it is believed the exposure may have occurred, prior to his relocation to Florida. 

It is not yet known how the donor contracted the disease.

Testing for rabies was not performed at the time of donor death and rabies was only recently confirmed as the cause of death as part of the current investigation.

The type of rabies virus found in both the donor and recipient is of raccoon origin, meaning the virus can infect not only raccoons, but also other wild and domestic animals.

In the United States, only one other person has ever died from this type of rabies virus.

The three other individuals who received organs from the donor, including one Florida resident, have been identified and are currently being evaluated by health care professionals and receiving rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (immune globulin and anti-rabies vaccination).

DOH is working with local county health departments to assess the risk of individuals who had direct contact with the donor and transplanted tissue and may need rabies post-exposure treatment as a result of the exposure.

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 and death within days of the onset of illness. In Florida, raccoons, foxes, and bats are the most commonly reported rabid animals.

Further comments from DOH are available through the Department’s YouTube page and can be downloaded for broadcast. For more information about rabies, please visit the DOH’s website at

For more information about the organ screening and donation process, the CDC’s message can be found here:

The Department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.