Northwestern organ transplant patient getting anti-rabies shots

March 15, 2013 2:21:38 PM PDT
An organ donation scare now has federal health authorities scrambling to treat patients who may have been exposed to the rabies virus. One is in the Chicago area.

Four people received donated organs from a 20-year-old North Carolina man who died in Florida in 2011 before it was learned he had rabies.

The Defense Department said Friday the donor was in the Air Force for 17 weeks before he died. He was training to become an aviation mechanic in Pensacola when he became sick.

Now, more than a year later, a Maryland man who received a kidney has died of rabies.

Federal health officials say the three other recipients of organs are now getting anti-rabies shots.

One of those recipients had an organ transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. That person, who is not being identified, does not have any signs of rabies but has been started on anti-rabies shots as a precaution.

Health officials are also working to determine if any hospital staff or family members will need precautionary treatment.

Transmission of the rabies virus through an organ or tissue transplant is extremely rare. This is said to be only the second instance of rabies transmitted through a transplant.

All donors are screened for a battery of infectious diseases before their organs are offered Rabies however is not one of them.

Two other patients, one in Florida and one in Georgia, received organs from the same donor. They are also getting rabies shots as a precaution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.