Virginia Woman Dies From Rabies After Doctors Misdiagnose Her with Anxiety
A Virginia woman died from rabies after being bitten by a puppy on a yoga retreat and tragically sent home twice by doctors who did not realize she had the deadly virus.
The unidentified 65-year-old woman began experiencing pain in her right arm while gardening on May 3, 2017, more than a month after returning home from her seven-week long trip to the South Asian country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Concerned for her health, the woman visited urgent care three days later where she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and sent home with an anti-inflammatory drug and hydrocodone.
On May 7, the woman was taken to a hospital with symptoms such as shortness of breath, anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty swallowing, according to the CDC’s case report. This time, she was diagnosed with a panic attack and given medicine to relieve anxiety.
Shortly after, the woman found herself in the emergency room for shortness of breath and claustrophobia. She was again diagnosed with a panic attack, the CDC reported.
The next day, on May 8, the woman was taken from her home by ambulance to a hospital for pain not only involving the arm but the shoulder, as well as shortness of breath, progressive paresthesia – numbness or a burning sensation of the extremities — and anxiety.
Her neurologic exam showed signs of ataxia, which is the loss of control of bodily functions.
The laboratory results also showed elevated cardiac enzymes, according to the report. However, the woman underwent emergency cardiac catheterization, “which indicated normal coronary arteries.”
Later that evening, the woman became aggressively agitated and combative. She was also seen gasping for air when trying to drink water. This prompted doctors to ask her husband if she had been exposed to any animals in recent months.
The husband told the doctors his wife had been bitten on the right hand by a puppy in India but decided to clean the wound on her own and did not seek proper medical attention, according to the CDC.
It is not clear exactly how she came in contact with the puppy.
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On May 9, the woman showed signs that she was suffering from a severe brain infection after being placed on a ventilator.
Medical professionals officially diagnosed her with rabies two days later.
Doctors tried a number of methods to save the woman’s life and even put her in a medically induced coma.
On May 21, the family chose to stop all treatment and the woman died shortly after.
According to the CDC, India has “the world’s largest incidence of dog-mediated human rabies deaths.”
Travelers to India are encouraged to receive a number of vaccinations before arriving in the country.
In the case that rabies is contracted, the CDC recommends Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) be administered as quickly possible after exposure.
Symptoms of rabies can develop as early as nine days after exposure or as late as seven years. The disease travels from the site of the bite to the brain through the nerves, according to the CDC.
The woman is the ninth person in the United States to die after being infected after traveling or working out of the country.