Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Rare death. A human dies from rabies here in Maryland for the first time since 1976. Now health officials are investigating how that person contracted the virus.
Meghan McCorkell has the latest on the investigation.
State health officials aren’t releasing specific information on the person who died to protect the privacy of the family, but the case does come as a shock.
You hear about it in raccoons and bats. But now, for the first time in decades, a human has died from rabies in Maryland.
“I’ve been hoping I’d get through my entire career and not have this experience,” Dr. Katherine Feldman said.
The state’s public health veterinarian helped make the positive diagnosis.
“We don’t know how this individual became infected with rabies. We’re actively investigating that,” Feldman said.
Hundreds of Marylanders each year are exposed to rabies, normally contracted through an animal bite. There were 324 cases of rabies in animals in Maryland last year. Frederick County had the highest number with 36; most of them were raccoons. Montgomery County had 29 cases and Baltimore City saw 25 cases; most of those in bats.
Humans who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal are treated with a series of shots. If untreated, rabies symptoms include convulsions, drooling, muscle spasms and fever. Those symptoms generally don’t appear for more than a month and by then, it’s usually too late.
“Rabies is fatal. So once someone develops the symptoms, they are likely going to die,” Feldman said.
That’s why anyone with an animal bite should seek medical attention immediately.
Officials say one of the best ways to prevent rabies is to vaccinate your dogs and cats.
Rabies is transmitted through saliva, so it doesn’t easily spread person to person.