Rabid cat found in Shiffletts Corner neighborhood | News

In order to protect the health of our residents, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District (RRHD) is issuing an advisory regarding a feral cat that tested positive for rabies in the Shiffletts Corner area of ​​Madison County.

A feral cat was found dead at a private residence in the community of Shiffletts Corner on Thursday, January 13. The local health department sent the cat to Virginia State Lab for rabies testing. He was reported as positive on Wednesday January 19. The local health department contacted everyone identified as likely to have come into contact with the feral cat and assessed individual rabies vaccination needs after exposure.

The health district encourages everyone to talk with friends, family, co-workers and neighbors, including elderly and disabled contacts, about rabies and the importance of leaving wild animals alone. It is important to keep pets and livestock up to date on their rabies vaccinations. People who have had recent contact with, or have been bitten by, a feral cat or wild animal should contact their primary care provider or local health department for further evaluation and medical recommendations.

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To report an incident of rabies exposure, contact the Madison Environmental Health Office at (540) 948-5481, or Madison Animal Control at (540) 948-7042.

Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. The virus is found only in the saliva and brain tissue of an infected mammal (the virus is not found in birds, fish, insects or reptiles) and is most commonly spread when an infected animal bites a human or pet. Less often, the virus can also be spread when saliva or infected brain tissue comes into contact with an open or mucous membrane (eye, mouth, nose).

Symptoms of the virus in animals include abnormal behaviors such as difficulty swallowing (causing fear of drinking i.e. “hydrophobia” and foaming around the mouth), poor balance , paralysis and convulsions. Some, but not all, rabid animals can become aggressive and attack. Once symptoms of rabies appear, the disease progresses rapidly and is nearly 100% fatal within days. In Virginia, the virus is most commonly identified in “high risk” wild animals such as bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks. Rabies is sometimes detected in domestic animals (dogs, cats and livestock), almost all due to lack of vaccination history and exposure to the virus. Examples of this include dogs imported from countries where rabies is endemic and unmanaged feral cat colonies. Annual counts of laboratory-confirmed rabies cases in Virginia by county and species are available from 1999 through September 2021 at www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/statistics/.

Measures to prevent the spread of rabies:

To protect pets and their owners from rabies, Virginia law requires that all dogs and cats four months of age and older be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian and that vaccinations be up to date. Low cost rabies vaccination clinics are available throughout the region and can be found by searching “low cost rabies vaccines near me” on your smart phone or internet connected device.

Additional steps to protect against exposure to rabies:

  • Make your home less welcoming to wildlife! Do not feed stray or wild animals and be sure to feed pets indoors.
  • Store garbage and pet food indoors if possible. If waste and pet food is stored outdoors, make sure the container is secure and animal proof.
  • Teach children to avoid contact with wild or domestic animals.
  • If you are bitten by a wild or stray animal, don’t panic. Wash the wound(s) thoroughly with warm, soapy water and contact animal control, your doctor, or the local Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District office for further recommendations.
  • Do not handle, attempt to care for or dispose of sick, injured or dead animals. Contact animal control or the non-emergency police number for assistance.
  • Keep wild animals such as bats out of your home by covering chimneys with screens and blocking openings in attics. Unlocked dog doors and open windows without screens can also invite wildlife.
  • If you observe stray or sick animals in the area, do not try to catch or kill them. Contact your local animal control center for assistance.
  • If a bat is inside and may have come in contact with someone, do not release it. Call animal control for assistance. A public health nurse or environmental health specialist from the health department will contact you to determine if the bat should be tested for rabies.

For more information on rabies, visit Rabies Control – Animal Contact and Human Health (virginia.gov). For more information about the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, the communities we serve, and local office phone numbers, visit www.RRHD.org.

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