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Official: Donor of rabies-infected organs was from Jones County

Published On: Mar 18 2013 11:51:07 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 19 2013 12:32:36 PM CDT

Health officials said it was a Jones County man who had rabies-infected organs that led to the death of a transplant patient in Maryland.

William Small, from Trenton, was training to be an Air Force aviation mechanic in Florida, military officials said. In August, 2011, Small visited a clinic at the Pensacola Naval Air Station for treatment of abdominal pain and vomiting.

Small's family was told in September, 2011 that he died due to complications of a stomach virus. But last week, state health officials informed his family that the 20-year-old had actually died from rabies.

Small's organs were donated to recipients in Maryland, Florida, Georgia and Illinois. According to health officials, the man in Maryland who received Small's kidney had died.

"What bothers me the most is that someone has lost a life cause of something my son did," said Small’s father, William.

According to health officials, doctors in Florida did not test Small for rabies before he died. Anna Mercer, the grandmother of Small's 3-year-old son, said she was skeptical when she was initially told that Small died of a stomach illness.

"It didn't set right with me, but you know, they did the autopsy so I accepted what they said," Mercer said.

Family member said Small was an outdoors man who loved to hunt fish and trap animals.

"In a way, it doesn't surprise me how he might have come in contact with [rabies],” said Mercer. “It was nothing for him to pick up a wild animal like a raccoon."

Small was in the Air Force for 17 weeks before he died, military officials said.

The other three recipients of Small’s organs are receiving rabies treatment at this time.