RALEIGH, N.C. – A North Carolina woman says her child's father is the Air Force mechanic whose rabies-infected organs were transplanted into multiple recipients, including a Maryland man who died.
Alecia Mercer of Trenton, N.C., said Monday that military and state health officials told her last week that William Edward Small had died of rabies in September 2011. At the time of his death, Mercer says she was told that Small died of complications from a stomach virus.
Doctors in Florida didn't test the 20-year-old Small for rabies before he died. A man who received an infected kidney died. His heart, liver and other kidney went to recipients in Florida, Georgia and Illinois.
Small had been in the Air Force for 17 weeks before he died. He was in Florida to train as aviation mechanic.
Kathy Giery of LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services in Gainesville, Fla., said the hospital found he died from food poisoning from a toxin sometimes found in large saltwater fish. She says the organs were not tested for rabies because no one suspected it at the time.
The Defense Department has said he died of severe stomach and intestinal inflammation. The Florida Department of Health believed it was encephalitis.