Scientists have documented the first human death in the United States from raccoon rabies.

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A 25-year-old office worker from Virginia died in March after 14 days in the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday. Genetic analysis of tissue samples by the CDC determined the man had gotten rabies from a raccoon.

Doctors could not figure out how or when the man became infected, despite extensive interviews with relatives, friends and co-workers.

Rabies in humans are rare, but it is always deadly. Thirty-seven human cases have been reported in the United States since 1990, according to the CDC.

Rabies is usually transmitted via bites or scratches from infected dogs, cats, bats, foxes, skunks, coyotes and bobcats.

The CDC reported three rabies deaths in the United States in 2002, one in 2001 and five in 2000. The Virginia case is the only death reported so far in 2003.

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