Rare human rabies case reported in Virginia

A person from Virginia who was bitten by a dog while traveling in India contracted rabies, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Typically, the U.S. only sees one to three human rabies cases annually, making this case uncommon. The last time Virginia had a rabies case was in 2009.

The state health department is working with the CDC to assess rabies risk for healthcare workers and others with direct contact with the patient. This step is out of an abundance of caution however, as the only documented cases of human-to-human rabies spread occurred through organ transplantation.

The rabies virus is typically transmitted when the saliva of a host animal is passed to an uninfected animal. In the U.S., the most common carriers of rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats. The virus attacks the central nervous system.

Rabies is typically fatal once clinical signs of rabies infection, like cerebral dysfunction, confusion, delirium and insomnia, appear, according to the CDC. However, most human fatalities in the U.S. happen when people fail to seek medical assistance — postexposure treatment is nearly 100 percent effective.

The Virginia Department of Health did not release further information on the status of the individual, but said, "[O]ur thoughts and prayers are with the patient and the patient's family."

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