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Virginia woman with rabies may have exposed others to virus

Posted at 12:21 PM, May 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-12 12:23:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. – A Virginia resident bitten by a dog while traveling in India has contracted rabies, the Virginia Department of Health confirmed. According to sources, she was bitten six weeks ago and developed full blown rabies five days ago. Sources also said she is being treated in Charlottesville.

While the only documented cases of human-to-human transmission of rabies have been via organ transplantation, acting out of an abundance of caution, VDH is assessing those who had direct contact with this patient to see if there is any concern that they may have been exposed to rabies.

VDH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health care centers where the patient sought care, to assess any healthcare worker who potentially may have been exposed to rabies virus due to contact with this patient.

VDH is also working to identify any family members and close contacts who may have been exposed to rabies virus due to contact with this patient.

No additional information about the individual will be released to protect their privacy, VDH said.

“Our thoughts are with the patient and the patient’s family,” VDH said in a press release.

Human rabies cases in the United States are rare, with only one to three cases reported annually.

Twenty-eight cases of human rabies have been diagnosed in the United States since 2006, of which 8 cases were infected outside the United States and its territories.

The last time VDH reported a human rabies case was in 2009. This patient had also traveled to India and was bitten by a dog while there.

Richmond Animal Control Officer Rob Leinberger said people bitten stateside, have to report the bite, by law, and get treatment immediately.

"Thankfully we have a pretty robust rabies prevention program for companion animals such as dogs, cats and even ferrets," Leinberger said. "I think we may take that for granted sometimes, so my heart goes out to this family."

Those traveling internationally should check with their healthcare providers about vaccinations or other health precautions that are recommended prior to departure. A comprehensive resource for travel health recommendations, for healthcare providers and travelers, is available at: