An American man has died of rabies at a Shenzhen hospital after being admitted in early August.

The Shenzhen Hospital of Southern Medical University said on Thursday that the patient died on Saturday. A person in charge at the hospital said that he was admitted on August 8, complaining that he had difficulty swallowing, and was coughing. According to mainland news outlet The Paper, he exhibited symptoms of rabies during treatment.

The Shenzhen Hospital of Southern Medical University. Photo: Hospital website.

Upon questioning, the hospital learned that he had been scratched while feeding stray dogs a week previously, and that his own dog had died suddenly half a year ago.

The infectious viral disease, which is most commonly transmitted to humans by dogs, is almost always fatal following the appearance of clinical symptoms. Rabies can be prevented with a vaccine, and immediate treatment after exposure can prevent death.

The hospital said that, usually, those diagnosed with rabies die within three to six days after they are diagnosed. But the patient survived for over a month, and the hospital attributed this to the fact that they had used the newest available methods to treat him.

‘Recovery treatment’

Guan Yinye, the CEO of the Beijing Genomics Institute, a company hired to carry out gene sequence testing on the patient, claimed at a talk at the end of August that the patient may be the first to be cured of the disease in China, and that he was “waiting for this miracle to happen.” Guan said the patient had left the intensive care unit and was undergoing “recovery treatment,” but the hospital said that he had never left the ICU.

According to the World Health Organisation’s China office, China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, after India. Over 2,000 deaths on average have been reported each year over the past decade, according to information on its website. The Chinese government aims to eliminate rabies nationwide by 2025.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 924 cases of human rabies were reported in the country in 2014.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.