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Cat killed by rabies

cases increasing

March 23, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A young cat that was taken in by a local family in January has tested positive for rabies.

Four other cats owned by the family have been placed on a 45-day quarantine in the home because of their possible exposure, a Humane Society of Washington County spokeswoman said.

The cat was living in the 900 block of Spruce Street until the family took it to the Humane Society on March 12 because of apparent behavioral changes, spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said Monday during a telephone interview.

The cat was taken to an emergency veterinarian's office, where it died. It was later taken for a necropsy at a laboratory in Frederick, Md., said Pat Travis, who coordinates the county's rabies program for the health department.

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"We're seeing more and more rabies in cats. We hadn't see that before," Cooker said.

She emphasized the need to get pets vaccinated and said it's best to keep cats indoors.

The Herald-Mail reported March 8 that there were 12 confirmed cases of rabies in Washington County in 2008. Two of those cases involved cats, but most involved raccoons and skunks.

Members of the family that took in the cat received post-exposure vaccinations, Cooker said. Humane Society employees who would have come into contact with the animal received boosters, she said.

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.

Once the signs and symptoms of rabies are evident, the infected animal is dead within 10 days, Travis said.

Rabies can only be spread through saliva after the animal shows signs and symptoms, she said.

Symptoms of rabies can come in two forms, Cooker said. The first is "furious" rabies, when an animal becomes aggressive, restless and combative. It will become sensitive to being touched and a normally friendly pet can become very shy.

Rabid animals also show aggression and an unusual lack of fear of humans. Both might display excessive drooling and a fear of water. Another symptom is wildlife that normally is active at night becoming active during the day.

The second type of rabies is "dumb" rabies, in which an animal becomes weak in one or more limbs, lethargic, unable to raise its head and unable to swallow due to paralysis in the neck and throat muscles.

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