American Man Dies After Rabies Treatment in Shenzhen

By Sky Gidge, September 28, 2017

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An American man passed away at the Southern Medical University's Shenzhen hospital on September 23, according to media reports.

He was reportedly admitted to the hospital on August 8 with muscle spasms and hydrophobia – a fear of swallowing water – both symptoms of rabies, an "almost invariably fatal" virus once symptoms appear according to the World Health Organization

The American reported being scratched while feeding stray dogs a week earlier, according to the Hong Kong Free Press, which also reports that the Shenzhen-based Beijing Genomics Institute – also known as BGI – was hired to carry out gene sequencing on the patient as part of a treatment program.

More than 99 percent of all human deaths from rabies occur in Asia, Africa and South America, and 924 cases of human rabies were reported in China in 2014.

Rabies is a disease transmitted from animals to humans through animal saliva, usually on broken skin, with 96 percent of rabies cases in humans in Southeast Asia occurring after dog bites.

What should you do if you suspect you've been exposed to rabies?

If you are bitten by an animal that may be infected with rabies, it's important to seek treatment immediately, according to the World Health Organization. Left untreated, the disease is nearly always fatal.

  • Wash and flush the wound with soap and water for up to 15 minutes. 

  • Clean the wound with iodine.

  • Do not bandage or dress the wound.

  • Immediately proceed to a medical care center that can provide you with rabies shots.

Pre-exposure vaccines for rabies are usually given to people at high-risk of coming in contact with the disease, according to the Center for Disease Control

For more information about rabies vaccines and treatments, visit the CDC website here

For frequently asked questions about the disease, visit the World Health Organization website here.

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