WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 23 people have been urged to get rabies shots following the disclosure that four patients received organs from an infected donor.
Public health agencies in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland and North Carolina began searching at least a week ago for people who may have been exposed.
A man in Maryland who got a kidney from the donor in 2011 died of rabies. Organs from the same Air Force airman went to three other recipients, all of whom remain healthy.
The CDC said Tuesday that health officials in the five states found more than 500 people who might have had contact with a recipient, the donor or an organ. About 90 percent of them have been assessed for risk of infection.
A North Carolina woman said Monday that her child’s father is the Air Force aviation mechanic whose rabies-infected organs were transplanted into other recipients, including a Maryland man who died.
Military and state health officials visited Alecia Mercer last week at her home in Trenton, and told her that William Small had died of rabies in September 2011, Mercer told The Associated Press. At the time of his death, Mercer says she was told that Small died of complications from a stomach virus.
Doctors in Florida didn’t test the 20-year-old Small for rabies before he died. A man who received an infected kidney died. His heart, liver and other kidney went to recipients in Florida, Georgia and Illinois. They started getting the vaccine this month, and none has had rabies symptoms.
Mercer said she wasn’t surprised to learn that Small had died of rabies, and not a stomach virus, because he liked to hunt and trap animals.
“He did a lot of trapping and hunting and stuff,” she said. “He did the trapping, and he didn’t care what the animal looked like. He just picked it up.”
Small had been in the Air Force for 17 weeks before he died. He was in Florida to train as aviation mechanic.
He visited a clinic at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in August 2011 for abdominal pain and vomiting and was transferred to a civilian hospital four days later, a Defense Department spokeswoman said last week.
Mercer and her 3-year-old son hadn’t seen Small since December 2010, several months before he joined the military.
Mercer said the state health officials asked if she had visited Small at the hospital, but she had not. The officials didn’t suggest that Mercer or her son have any treatments, said Mercer, who is pregnant.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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