In a press release, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has announced that confirmation came after laboratory testing of autopsy samples.
The autopsy specimens were tested after three people who had received organ transplants from the same donor all died.
Although transmission of rabies has occurred previously through cornea transplants, this is the first instance of rabies transmission via solid organ transplant.
In the great majority of cases rabies, although an acute fatal disease, does not occur from non-bite exposures, such as scratches, contamination of an open wound, or direct mucus membrane contact with infectious material (for example saliva or neuronal tissue).
It is generally only exposure through being bitten by a rabid animal, such as a dog, that can result in the disease being contracted.
Despite this, CDC is working with health officials from Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Arkansas, amongst others, to determine those who may have come into contact with either the transplant donor or recipients, in order to administer post-exposure treatment.
The organ donor had undergone routine donor eligibility screening and testing. However, rabies testing is not part of the routing screening process.
Lungs, kidneys, and liver were recovered and later transplanted on May 4 into four recipients, one of whom (the lung transplant patient) died during transplant surgery. No other organs or tissues were recovered from the donor.