By Juan Duran

In this article, Public health investigators report on a case involving a kidney transplant recipient who contracted rabies after transplantation from an undetected infected donor. A novel approach using social media to map the transmission of the disease was used to identify other potentially infected individuals.

An unnamed organ recipient from Maryland, who passed away in 2013 due to the rabies virus, was one of three individuals to receive organs from the infected donor. Luckily, none of the other recipients contracted the disease. However, there was still concern that Mr. Small, the organ donor, could have transmitted the disease to others. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) utilized social media to determine Mr. Small’s whereabouts and identify other potentially infected individuals. By reconstructing his social calendar between the periods of August and September 2011, epidemiologists were able to assess 524 individuals for possible exposure and recommend that 58 receive a vaccination.

In response to concerns over privacy issues, official reassured the press by stating that they “wouldn’t go out and do a social blast saying do you know this person? Have you had contact with him?” instead they would only use their social calendars to track their interaction with the public. Due to these events, the CDC and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have reiterated their recommendation for a standardized approach in assessing rabies exposure in organ donors.

Read more here.