CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Guatemalan national, who had been in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since May 12, passed away late Tuesday at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi. This individual was diagnosed with rabies, which health experts believe he contracted prior to crossing into the United States.
Federico Mendez-Hernandez, 28, was last apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol May 9 on the Rio Grande River near Hidalgo and transferred to ICE custody three days later. On May 18, Mendez-Hernandez was transported to the Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg in Kingsville after he reported symptoms compatible with rabies, which included anxiety, vomiting, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate. The following day, he was transferred to the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital in Corpus Christi.
On Friday, laboratory testing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the diagnosis of rabies associated with a canine rabies virus variant common in Central America.
A representative from the Guatemalan consulate was with Mendez-Hernandez at the time of his passing and will notify his next of kin. Consistent with ICE protocol, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have also been informed.
Mendez-Hernandez showed no signs or symptoms of illness at the time of his apprehension and booking. ICE health care policy requires that all detainees receive an initial health screening immediately upon arrival at a facility to determine the appropriate medical, mental health, and/or dental treatment that is needed.
According to the CDC, there has never been a laboratory-confirmed case of person-to-person transmission of rabies outside of organ or tissue transplantations. However, in an abundance of caution, the Texas Department of State Health Services and CDC are conducting a full contact investigation to determine who had contact with Mendez-Hernandez while he was in the United States. Public health officials are interviewing people who came into contact with him at federal facilities and the hospital to determine their risk of exposure to rabies. People who are determined to have been exposed to Mendez-Hernandez's saliva or tears may need to be treated by receiving shots of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin to prevent them from getting the disease. More information about rabies is available at www.cdc.gov/rabies and www.texasrabies.org.