A US army soldier died of rabies after being bitten by a dog in Afghanistan, US health authorities said on Thursday.
The 24-year-old male first complained in mid-August 2011 of symptoms including shoulder and neck pain, odd sensations in his hands and fainting, shortly after arriving at Fort Drum, New York for a new military assignment.
“He was lucid and described having received a dog bite on the right hand during January 2011 while deployed to Afghanistan,” said the report by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tests confirmed that the patient had a type of canine rabies associated with dogs in Afghanistan, the CDC report said.
The soldier’s condition swiftly deteriorated after he was hospitalized on August 19.
He suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and after consulting with doctors who said recovery was unlikely, the family withdrew life support. The soldier, whose name was withheld by the CDC, died on August 31.
Although he had told family and friends while in Afghanistan in January 2011 that he had been “bitten by a feral dog and had sought medical treatment, which he described as wound cleansing and injections,” an Army probe turned up no documentation of a reported bite wound or treatment.
Nor was there any record of the dog being taken in for rabies tests.
The incubation period for rabies can range from 10 days to seven years, though it is typically between three and seven weeks according to the US Library of Medicine.
The soldier had also traveled in Germany before falling ill, and the CDC investigation found that he had interacted with some 190 people between the time of his dog bite and his hospitalization.
A total of 29 close contacts and health care personnel were treated for rabies exposure as a preventive measure.
Rabies can be spread through infected saliva, tears, spinal fluid or brain tissue that enters the body through a bite or broken skin.
The CDC said the case highlights the risks of rabies exposure during travel or deployment to countries where rabies is prevalent and the urgency of following medical protocols to prevent disease, as well as “the need for global canine rabies elimination through vaccination.”
[A US soldier walks inside Camp Rhino in Afghanistan AFP Photo/Rick Loomis]