Demand for answers after rabies vaccine fails to save dog-bite victim in China

Grieving husband asks Xian medical authorities to investigate why treatment failed to save his wife, who died a month after being bitten on the ankle by a stray

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 10:17am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 2:19pm

A businessman in northwestern China has called on health authorities to investigate the death of his wife, who died from rabies despite being vaccinated against the disease.

Ma Hongzhou’s 32-year-old wife died nearly a month after she was bitten by a dog in Xian, Shaanxi province, late last month even though she immediately took a course of post-bite rabies vaccinations.

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Ma told Red Star News that his wife was bitten by a dog on the street in late June when she was on her way to meet a business partner.

He said the dog was loitering on the street when it suddenly wheeled around and bit his wife’s left ankle.

On the advice of a close friend, the woman went to a hospital in the city, where she took the first dose of rabies vaccine that day.

She then took the other three doses of vaccines in the next 20 days at Xian Central Hospital, according to medical records.

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However, she began to feel discomfort in her leg on July 13 and also complained about frequent urination.

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Her condition rapidly worsened in the following days as she began to vomit and could hardly walk on her own before admitted to the hospital on July 17. There doctors diagnosed that she was infected with the rabies virus, which nearly always proves fatal after symptoms begin to appear.

She became unconscious in the early morning of July 18 and died within hours.

Ma has applied to the city’s health commission for further investigation into the death of his wife,

saying he hoped that her case could raise more awareness about rabies.

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“We can’t just wait until tragedy happens,” Ma told Red Star News.

Ma said he had not received any official explanation from the health authority.

A doctor from Shaanxi Disease Prevention and Control Centre told the news service that a rabies vaccination was not a guarantee against developing the disease because it took time – about 28 days after all five doses – for the human body to generate antibodies to counteract the virus.