Animal bites should be assessed for rabies

Jan. 5, 2012 at 9:15 PM
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ATLANTA, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The third case of human rabies in the United States acquired in Haiti since 2000 highlights the importance of obtaining patients' history, health officials say.

A report published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said a 73-year-old woman who was bitten in April by an adopted street dog in her home country of Haiti, died in July of rabies in New Jersey while visiting family.

The woman did not seek medical care when the bite occurred because she thought it was minor. Her family in the United States was not informed of the bite until after diagnosis, an investigation found.

The patient went to a New Jersey emergency department June 30 with shoulder pain, chest pain, headaches and increased blood pressure despite hypertension medication. Based on her signs and medical history a blood clot was suspected but tests for a heart attack were negative and she was released.

She visited two different hospital emergency rooms the next day with more symptoms and a drug reaction was suspected, the report said. Rabies was detected in a skin biopsy July 18.

The woman's daughter spoke with relatives in Haiti who said the woman had been bitten by her dog.

Infected bats are the most common source of human U.S. rabies, but dogs are the most common source abroad, health officials said.

Health officials advise a full history be obtained from those who have traveled from a rabies-endemic country where rabies can be contracted from a dog.

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