American woman dies after doctors mistake rabies for a panic attack

American woman dies after doctors mistake rabies for a panic attack
Photo credit: Getty

An American woman has died after doctors in Virginia mistook her rabies symptoms as signs of a panic attack.

The 65-year-old had been on a seven week yoga retreat in India last year when she was bitten by a puppy, LiveScience reported. 

The bite was washed with water, but no other treatments were given to her.

Six weeks after she returned to the US, the woman was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome after she experienced pain and tingling in her right arm.

The following day, she went to the emergency room with shortness of breath, sleeping troubles, anxiety and difficulty swallowing water.

According to LiveScience, she was given anxiety medication and sent on her way.

Just a day later, she was back with the same symptoms. A heart examination indicated she may have a problem with blood flow, and she had emergency surgery.

But the truth was much more tragic.

As the day progressed the woman grew "progressively agitated and combative", as well as gasping for air as she tried to drink water.

 Difficulty in drinking, or fear of water are symptoms of rabies. Once symptoms begin to present, rabies is almost always fatal.

Doctors asked the woman's family if she had been exposed to any animals, and her husband told them about the bite, LiveScience reported. 

The vaccination for rabies is only effective before symptoms present themselves. Once a person begins to show symptoms, it is almost always fatal.

The woman died shortly after her family decided to withdraw advanced medical support. Out of 250 staff that had contact with her, it was recommended that 72 of them undergo rabies vaccinations, to ensure that they had not contracted rabies via the woman's' saliva.

The CDC recommends that travellers consult a health specialist before venturing overseas, and making sure they receive all the vaccinations they need.



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