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article imageVirginia woman with rabies may have exposed others to virus

By Karen Graham     May 12, 2017 in Health
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) confirmed on Friday that while traveling in India, a Virginia woman was bitten by a dog and contracted rabies.
In a press release, the health department said that the rare case of rabies has been confirmed by laboratory tests and family members and others, along with health care professionals who may have had contact with the woman are being assessed for exposure to the virus.
While the only documented cases of human-to-human transmission of rabies have been via organ transplantation, the VDH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in investigating the case. The health department added in their statement that no additional information about the individual will be released to protect the family's privacy. saying, "Our thoughts are with the patient and the patient’s family."
Stray dogs can be commonly seen on Delhi's streets  and while some are friendly and docile  oth...
Stray dogs can be commonly seen on Delhi's streets, and while some are friendly and docile, others are more menacing, barking ferociously at strangers
Chandan Khanna, AFP/File
Human rabies in the United States
Human rabies in the U.S. is extremely rare, primarily because of laws requiring vaccination of pets. There are from one to three cases of rabies reported in the U.S. annually with only 28 confirmed cases since 2006, with eight of those cases contracted outside the U.S. and its territories.
The last time the VDH reported a case of rabies in Virginia was 2009, and that patient had traveled to India and was bitten by a dog while there. Travelers are always urged to see their health care providers when traveling to other countries to update vaccinations and find out about other health precautions. More information is available at
Rabies in India
In 2016, there were about 17.4 million dog bites in India, with 20,565 of them resulting in death from rabies. Almost 50 percent of those deaths were children under the age of 16. And while there are no definitive numbers on the proliferation of stray dogs in India, most estimates put the population at around 30 million dogs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with humane organizations and health authorities in India to rid the country of rabies by 2030. India does have a dog sterilization program, but according to some authorities, it is in tatters. The country also has a rabies vaccine rule for pet dogs, but most people don't know about it or can't afford the cost of the vaccine, which is about US$15.
But the country does have a rather large rabies vaccine and prophylaxis program for humans. Some cities even go so far as to recommend that families with children and dogs get their children a preexposure prophylaxis dose of a rabies vaccine and then, if they are bitten, another dose or two.
However, even with knowing there is help if a person is bitten by a dog that may have rabies, many families living in poverty still can't afford to pay for the vaccine or hospital care that may be required, so it's a never ending story of hardship and grief.
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