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Maryland Man Died from Rabies, First Case since 1976

Update Date: Mar 13, 2013 02:59 PM EDT

Rabies are often associated with dogs and wild animals, so when the Maryland Health Officials reported that an unidentified man died from the disease, it left many wondering how the infection could have happened. A human case of rabies has not been recorded since 1976 the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene stated despite numerous cases of rabies presenting in animals. Human cases of rabies are very rare in the United States with an average of less than five cases per year. This infection is particularly rare because of the rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin that protect humans from the disease. The health officials are now trying to assess the situation to make sure that the man did not transfer the infection to any one else. The officials are also trying to determine how the individual got the infection.

Just last year, there were a total of 320 animals infected with rabies in Maryland. Rabies, an acute viral infection, can be passed between humans and other mammals depending on the type of contact. Usually, rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected mammal. For example, a rabies-infected dog's bite would spread the disease from the animal to a human victim. Whether or not that happened in this case still remains unclear. Rabies can also be transmitted through breaks and cuts in the skin and/or contact with mucous membranes, although these two ways are extremely rare.

Contrary to common belief that animals infected with rabies display aggression, some infected mammals can appear to be normal and calm. However, most cases lead to foaming near the mouth or excessive drooling because the infection prevents the animal from swallowing their own saliva. When the rabies infection is left untreated, it leads to death.

The officials have not found any other cases of humans infected with rabies within the area.

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