Military and state health officials visited Alecia Mercer last week at her home in Trenton, N.C., and told her that William Edward Small had died of rabies in September 2011, Mercer told The Associated Press. 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. They started getting the vaccine this month, and none has had rabies symptoms.
Mercer said she wasn't surprised to learn that Small had died of rabies, and not a stomach virus, because he liked to hunt and trap animals.
"He did a lot of trapping and hunting and stuff," she said. "He did the trapping, and he didn't are what the animal looked like. He just picked it up."
Small had been in the Air Force for 17 weeks before he died. He was in Florida to train as aviation mechanic.
He visited a clinic at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in August 2011 for abdominal pain and vomiting and was transferred to a civilian hospital four days later, a Defense Department spokeswoman said last week.
Mercer and her 3-year-old son hadn't seen Small since December 2010, several months before he joined the military.
Mercer said the state health officials asked if she had visited Small at the hospital, but she had not. The officials didn't suggest that Mercer or her son have any treatments, said Mercer, who is pregnant.
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