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Rabies-infected organs cause concern for those close to recipients

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to identify those who may have been in contact with the donor of a rabies-infected kidney, according to a CDC press release.

Public health officials are also looking for those in contact with 4 organ recipients, since rabies can be spread through tears and saliva.

A Maryland kidney transplant patient died earlier this month of rabies from the transplant. The kidney was traced back to LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services in Gainesville.

The three living organ recipients have been identified and are being monitored. They are also receiving anti-rabies vaccinations, according to the CDC.

Kathleen Giery, director of Donor Program Development at LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services in Gainesville, said the donor was diagnosed with Ciguatera toxin, not rabies, at the time of donation.

Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning associated with eating fish, according to the CDC website. Though there is no cure for Ciguatera, there are treatments for it. Symptoms can last from days to years.

Giery said LifeQuest would never accept organs believed to be infected.

“(The donor) was not diagnosed with rabies,” Giery said. “He was not suspected of having rabies. He was not tested for rabies.”

According to the CDC website, between one and three people each year are infected with rabies in the United States.

Rabies symptoms include fever, headaches and general discomfort. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include insomnia, anxiety, paralysis and hallucinations.

Giery hopes this case won’t deter people from being organ donors.

“Organ donation is a positive thing,” Giery said. “When people make their own decision to support donation they are truly giving hope to many, many, many people who are in need of a transplant.”

Casey Christ wrote this story online. 

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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  • Silverfisch

    “Giery hopes this case won’t denture people from being organ donors.”

    I am not sure what this comment has to do with teeth. Perhaps she meant to say deter, or it could be an auto correct problem with the spell checker. Surely no editor would let this pass.