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Mother and son receiving shots for rabies

July 22, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - A Jefferson County woman and her 9-year-old son are receiving rabies shots after a rabid kitten, which the family found in a stall at Charles Town Races & Slots, bit the boy on the hand last week, a Jefferson County Health Department official said Wednesday.

The boy's family found a mother cat and three kittens at the track, said Judi Rice, a sanitarian for the health department.

After health department officials sent out a news release about the rabid kitten Wednesday, they learned later in the afternoon that another one of the kittens tested positive for rabies, Rice said.

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The four cats were found in a stall in a barn where Tonya Hoffman and her family have horses, Rice said.

Hoffman's son, Joshua, was bitten by the rabid kitten July 13, Rice said.

The cats had to be euthanized to test them for rabies, Rice said.

Tonya Hoffman and Joshua have started a series of rabies shots to protect them from the disease, Rice said.

Tonya Hoffman is being given shots because of exposure to the cats, Health Department Director Randy DeHaven said.

Attempts to reach the Hoffman family were unsuccessful Wednesday night.

Although rabies can be fatal to humans, the series of five rabies shots prevents the virus from replicating in victims, Rice said.

Rice said track officials have been notified about the rabid cats and they are concerned about the situation. Rice, however, said she is not worried about a rabies threat to horses at the track because rabies vaccinations for horses are available. Health department officials always encourage horse owners to have their horses vaccinated, Rice said.

Cats commonly stay in the barn areas at the track because horse owners often take in stray cats and care for them, said Jim Buchanan, senior vice president of government and public affairs for the track.

Buchanan said he is not sure of what action the track will take in regards to the rabid cats that came from the track.

"I'm sure we're looking at it," Buchanan said.

The rabid cats bring to seven the number of animals found in Jefferson County this year that have tested positive for rabies, Rice said. That number is about normal, Rice said.

The other rabid animals included a cat which was found on Blue Ridge Mountain, a raccoon from the Leetown, W.Va., area, a raccoon from Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., a raccoon from Kearneysville, W.Va., and a raccoon in Middleway, W.Va., Rice said.

To avoid the disease, health officials urge people to:

  • Have pets vaccinated and keep the shots current.

  • Avoid contact with wild animals and stray pets.

  • Report unusual-acting animals to Jefferson County Animal Control.

  • Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by a suspicious-acting animal.
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