Maryland's first fatal case of rabies in nearly 40 years came from a kidney transplant, reports the Washington Post. At first doctors doubted the victim could have contracted rabies from the transplant because he received the kidney 15 months before his death, and rabies rarely has an incubation period longer than three months. But an autopsy confirmed a genetic match with the strain of virus found in the donor.
The donor was a Florida man in his 20s who died of encephalitis, or brain inflammation. Rabies can cause the condition, but it's rare. The donor also gave organs to three other people, but their conditions are not currently known. Rabies is not an infectious disease typically screened for before transplants, although some say the death by encephalitis should have set off warning bells. "Everyone was taken aback that someone who dies of encephalitis is considered acceptable to donate an organ," says a person involved in the case.