65-year-old woman dies after doctors misdiagnose rabies symptoms as anxiety, carpal tunnel

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A 65-year-old American woman has died of rabies after doctors repeatedly misdiagnosed her symptoms.

In an article published last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the death of an unnamed Virginia woman after she unknowingly contracted rabies during a visit to India after she was bitten by a puppy on the right hand.

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The woman spent seven weeks in India for a yoga retreat but did not seek medical attention for the wound, opting instead to treat her injuries herself.

Nearly a month after she returned home that she began experiencing pain in her right arm. On May 6, three days after her symptoms began, she visited visited urgent care where she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and given medication to ease her discomfort.

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On May 8, just two days after her initial visit, she returned to the hospital and reported trouble breathing, anxiety, insomnia and difficulty swallowing. Doctors misdiagnosed her symptoms once again, this time as a panic attack, and prescribed anxiety medication. According to the report, once inside her car her panic symptoms intensified, prompting her to go back inside the hospital for an additional dose of anxiety medication.

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Later that evening, the woman was taken back to hospital once again after experiencing trouble swallowing and breathing. This time, doctors questioned the woman and her husband about potential animal exposures and learned about the dog bite and that the woman had not received a rabies vaccine prior to her trip abroad.

The next day, doctors notified the Virginia Department of Health and put the woman on a ventilator after detecting signs of severe brain infection.

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On May 11, doctors officially diagnosed the woman with rabies and began treatment without success. The woman was placed in a medically-induced coma, but after 10 days without progress, her family chose to forego treatment. She died days later.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral mammal disease, typically contracted through animal bites, which infects the central nervous system and causes brain death.

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Early signs and symptoms of rabies, such as weakness, fever and headache can often be misdiagnosed as the flu.

The CDC reports there’s ypically a 2-10 day period of acute symptoms, after which symptoms such as delirium, insomnia and hallucinations begin. Once the disease progresses, it is often fatal.

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How to prevent rabies

Rabies is a preventable disease. Taking your pet to receive regular veterinary care and vaccinations and by staying up to date on your own vaccinations and be sure to receive the rabies vaccine before travelling abroad.

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