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Rare rabies death reported in Maryland

A rare rabies death has been reported in Mayland, the first in the state in nearly four decades.

CBS Station WJZ in Baltimore reported the death is the first in Maryland since 1976, and state officials are shocked by the case.

"I've been hoping I'd get through my entire career and not have this experience," Dr. Katherine Feldman, the Maryland state public health veterinarian, told the station.

The state is not releasing details on the death out of respect for patient privacy.

Rabies deaths are rare in the United States, accounting for only a handful of cases each year (2010 had only two reported infections, for example). Each year, an estimated 40,000 Americans receive a rabies vaccines due to potential exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Rabies is fatal. So once someone develops the symptoms, they are likely going to die," Feldman said.

About 1,000 Maryland residents receive preventive treatment for rabies each year, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Untreated, rabies can cause flu-like symptoms at first such as weakness, fever or headache. There may also be a prickling sensation at the bite. As the disease progresses over the course of a month, an infected person may experience anxiety, confusion, abnormal behavior, hallucinations and insomnia.

To date, there are less than 10 documented cases of people surviving rabies, according to the CDC. In June 2011, an 8-year-old Calif. girl , Precious Reynolds, survived rabies after contracting the disease from a feral cat outside her elementary school.

More than 90 percent of all animals with rabies reported to the CDC are wildlife, including raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

Generally, pets are more likely to come in contact with a rabid animal than humans, according to the CDC. To reduce risk, health officials recommend taking your pet to a veterinarian on a regular basis and making sure rabies vaccinations are up-to-date for all cats, dogs and ferrets. People should call animal control to remove all stray animals from their neighborhoods since the animals may be unvaccinated. People are also urged not to feed or bathe your pets outside.

The CDC has more on rabies in the United States.

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