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Congo Baby Infects Family With Rabies By Biting Them

Update Date: Oct 08, 2013 03:53 PM EDT

An infant who was dying of rabies has infected his family with the deadly disease by biting them.

The baby was among ten people who lost their lives in the recent rabies outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Metro. So far a total of 154 people have been infected with the viral disease.

The baby unwittingly infected his seven-year-old brother and 27-year-old father during the outbreak, according to the Daily Mail. However, the father and brother, who were both treated by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have since recovered.

It is extremely rare for rabies to be transmitted between humans. The majority of cases involve animal-to-human transmissions.

"I held my breath when I heard that a child dying of rabies had bitten and infected his father and brother - it was horrific," said Dr. Jantina Mandelkow, who leads MSF's team in Lemera, which is in the DRC's South Kivu region, according to the Metro.  "It's an impossible situation. Family members would obviously want to be with those who are ill, but when a person has rabies they can be a danger to people around them."

"I've only seen one other case of rabies in my career as a doctor and it was one of the worst things I have ever seen," Mandelkow said. "Rabies leads to death without treatment, and people in Lemera were incredibly scared - many walked for days to get to the hospital for treatment. With vaccinations unavailable elsewhere, they had nowhere else to turn."

Rabies is a deadly viral infection that causes acute encephalitis in mammals. People can get infected if they are bitten by a rabid animal. The disease, which attacks the brain and the nervous system, is almost always fatal unless treated very early.

Symptoms can range from tingling and itchiness at the site of the infection, fever, irrational fear of water and aggressive behavior. Treatment involves cleaning the site of infection and administering a course of rabies vaccines to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of the body.

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