The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Sunday reported the first imported case of human rabies of the year, urging the public to take preventive measures before traveling to rabies-affected areas.
A 31-year-old Filipino migrant worker started to experience backaches and discomfort on May 4, nearly a month after arriving in Taiwan on April 7 from the Philippines. The worker later developed nausea, loss of appetite, sore throat, fever, abnormal gait and delirium, the CDC said.
The patient has been hospitalized in a quarantine ward because rabies is a category 1 notifiable communicable disease. His condition is deteriorating rapidly and he is now suffering from multiple organ failure, the centers reported.
“The hospital physician that first treated the patient became alarmed after noticing two bite marks on his fingers,” CDC physician Philip Yi-chun Lo (羅一鈞) said.
Through a polymerase chain reaction saliva test, the centers confirmed that the man was infected with rabies and identified the particular strain of the virus as corresponding to the one found in the Philippines.
The agency contacted the patient’s family in the Philippines and found that he had been bitten by a dog on March 10, but had not sought medical attention.
“The incubation period of the rabies virus can last from 30 days up to 50 days,” Lo said.
Other than the symptoms already described, other possible symptoms of the virus include vomiting, difficulty breathing and a prickling sensation in the area of the bite, the CDC said. Within days of being infected, symptoms of anxiety, agitation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia may also manifest, it added.
Rabies is a kind of acute encephalomyelitis and survival is rare once the clinical signs of the disease appear, the agency said. The disease has an almost 100 percent fatality rate.
Taiwan reported two rabies cases imported from China in 2011 and last year, the centers said. Taiwan is one of the few rabies-free countries in the world, with no non-imported human rabies cases recorded since 1959 and no animal cases since January 1961, it added.
The CDC advised those planning to travel to rabies-affected areas to visit travel clinics one month prior to their trip to receive three doses of the pre-exposure rabies vaccine.
If bitten by an animal in a rabies-affected area, one should rinse the wound under running water for 15 minutes before seeking emergency medical help and receiving five dosages of post-exposure vaccinations.