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Hancock residents attacked by rabid cat

July 12, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HANCOCK - A feral cat that later tested positive for rabies attacked two Terrace Heights Drive residents Sunday in Hancock.

The Washington County Health Department issued a public health alert to Hancock residents, telling them to avoid handling wild or stray animals in the Terrace Heights Drive area, a Humane Society spokeswoman said Friday in a news release.

Health department officials printed fliers and went to homes in the affected area, Washington County Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said.

MacRae said he was not sure whether both people who were attacked were undergoing treatment for rabies.

However, normal protocol would call for them to undergo treatment, he said.

The Humane Society encourages everyone to have their pets inoculated against rabies, spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said Friday afternoon.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals. It can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal or contact with its saliva.

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The cat involved in Sunday's attack was picked up by an animal control officer Wednesday. Health officials said they believe the cat was part of a larger colony of feral cats living in the area.

The Humane Society is "very concerned" about the situation and has set out no-kill traps in the area, Cooker said.

Health Department officials do not know whether more cats will be tested. They are not inclined to test animals unless doing so could result in taking action to protect people, MacRae said.

Rabies is a serious problem in the community, and has been for years, MacRae said Friday afternoon.

In 1983, raccoons tested positive for the disease, MacRae said. For decades before that, the only animals in the area that tested positive for rabies were bats, he said.

Raccoons seem to be the main carriers of rabies, but occasionally the disease crosses over to other species, MacRae said.

Records available at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Web site show that in 2007, 19 cats in the state tested positive for rabies. Only one of those cats was from Washington County.

In that same year, Washington County had 20 confirmed cases of rabies, 15 of them in raccoons.

Learn more

For information on rabies, go to the Washington County Health Department Web site at www.washhealth.org. Under Hot Topics, click on Rabies Prevention.

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