WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A 65-year-old woman who went to the emergency room with symptoms of a panic attack turned out to have rabies, which she contracted from a puppy bite during a yoga retreat in India.
- By the time the obvious symptoms of rabies manifested, it was already too late.
- The tragic case prompted authorities to remind travelers to obtain a thorough pre-travel health consultation and receive ‘pre-exposure’ vaccines when recommended.
A woman from Virginia was thought to be having a panic attack when she went to the emergency room with shortness of breath, anxiety, and sleeping troubles. But it turned out to be something more fatal – a rabies infection.
The 65-year-old woman reportedly contracted the infection during a seven-week yoga retreat in India, where she was bitten by a puppy outside her hotel in the city of Rishikesh. She had the bite washed with water but received no further treatment.
She experienced pain and a tingling sensation in her right arm about six weeks after her return to the U.S. and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. When she went to the emergency room the next day with symptoms of a panic attack, she was prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
She returned to the hospital the next day with increased anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, and numbness in her arm. When a heart examination showed an issue with blood flow, an emergency procedure was done to thread a catheter through the blood vessels to her heart.
The woman only showed obvious symptoms of rabies later in the day when she became “progressively agitated and combative,” and was gasping for air when trying to drink water. This prompted the doctors to ask if she had been exposed to any animals, to which her husband recounted the puppy bite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a vaccine for rabies, but it must be administered before symptoms appear – once a person shows symptoms, there is no effective treatment and the disease is almost always fatal.
The doctors tried the Milwaukee protocol, an experimental protocol that administers antiviral drugs to treat rabies as a last resort, but the woman’s condition worsened. She died shortly after the family decided to withdraw advanced medical support.
According to the CDC, this is the ninth time in the past decade that a person died in the U.S. from a rabies infection acquired abroad.
Vaccination programs have eliminated the spread of rabies in the U.S., but it remains prevalent in more than 120 countries. India, specifically, has the highest number of deaths from human rabies related to dog exposures.
The CDC reminded U.S. travelers to undergo “a thorough pre-travel health consultation,” and receive “pre-exposure” vaccines before travel when recommended.
The woman reportedly did not have a pre-travel health consultation, when a rabies vaccine should have been considered given the length of her stay in India’s rural areas.
The CDC’s report was published in the January 4 issue of their journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Source: Live Science