The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday confirmed the first imported case of rabies in a decade, after a 30-year-old Taiwanese businessman who was bitten by a dog in China last month tested positive for the disease.
The China-based businessman, who started up a business in February in Hubei Province, was bitten on his left foot in the middle of last month by his keeshond, which, according to the center’s initial understanding, had been infected by a stray dog in May, CDC Deputy-Director Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
The man did not seek any immediate medical treatment or receive a rabies vaccination after the bite.
About a month later, he started exhibiting rabies-like symptoms, including numbness and itchiness on the soles of his feet and an abnormal sensation in his lower body, followed by hydrophobia (fear of water) and difficulty swallowing, Chou said.
Due to the severity of his symptoms, the man was flown back to Taiwan on a medical charter flight on Monday, Chou said, adding that the patient was now receiving treatment in an unnamed hospital’s intensive care unit.
The hospital reported the case to the CDC after laboratory results for the man’s saliva, serum and spinal fluid confirmed the infection to be rabies, which worldwide has a mortality rate close to 100 percent, with only eight recorded survivors ever.
This is only the second case of human rabies, the first also being imported from China in 2002, to have been reported in Taiwan since 1959. Taiwan is among the few Asian countries that are free of rabies. No animal cases have been reported since January 1961.
“Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis and is most rampant in India, China and Indonesia. The incubation period of the disease is three to eight weeks, with early symptoms including fever, chills, sore throat, lack of appetite and labored breathing,” Chou said.
Infected people can later experience more severe symptoms, Chou said, including paralysis, problems swallowing, painful muscle spasms of the throat, fear of water, delirium and convulsions, which ultimately lead to respiratory paralysis and death.
The center advised people planning to travel to rabies--endemic countries make sure they are vaccinated against the disease at least one month before departure.