"This is the first rabies death among U.S. service members since 1974. Canine rabies has been eliminated from the United States but is a risk to residents and visitors of many countries around the globe -- especially Africa and Asia," the New York state Department of Health reported.
A U.S. Army soldier with progressive right arm and shoulder pain, nausea, vomiting, ataxia, anxiety and dysphagia was admitted Aug. 19, 2011, to an emergency department in New York for suspected rabies, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
"Rabies virus antigens were detected in a nuchal skin biopsy, rabies virus antibodies in serum and cerebrospinal fluid and rabies viral RNA in saliva and specimens by state and CDC rabies laboratories," the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said. "An Afghanistan canine rabies virus variant was identified. The patient underwent an experimental treatment protocol but died on Aug. 31. The patient had described a dog bite while in Afghanistan. However, he had not received effective rabies post-exposure prophylaxis -- repeated injections of rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin."
In total, 29 close contacts and healthcare personnel received post-exposure prophylaxis after contact with the patient.
The case highlights the ongoing risks for rabies virus exposure during travel or deployment to rabies-enzootic countries, CDC officials said.