On Tuesday September 15, Matt Williams of the Pickens County Environmental Health Office was notified by the State Public Health Laboratory that a cat specimen submitted the previous day had tested positive for rabies. Mr. Williams’ investigation of the case found that the cat had been attacked by a raccoon on either July 19 or 20, along with at least two others on Paradise Lane in Jasper.
Owners of the rabid cat were exposed to the cat’s saliva during its care and are now undergoing post-exposure rabies treatments at a local hospital. None of the cats at this residence was vaccinated against rabies. The two other cats that were known to have been exposed to the raccoon in July are being quarantined in strict isolation for six months and a number of semi-feral cats are being trapped by Pickens County Animal Control and euthanized.
The public is warned not to have contact with stray cats, dogs or wildlife such as raccoons, and to vaccinate all dogs and cats against rabies without delay. Parents should strongly warn children against contact with stray animals and wild species such as raccoons, skunks and bats. Any scratch or bite from such animals must be considered extremely serious since rabies in humans is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. Wash and rinse any bite or scratch for several minutes and consult your physician immediately. All contact with possibly rabid strays or wildlife should also be reported to the Pickens County Environmental Health Office as soon as possible. Any incident occurring after regular hours may be reported to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department so that there are no unnecessary delays, or a message can be left at the Pickens County Environmental Health Office (706) 253-0900.
Matt Williams advises, “If you are not sure that your pets are up to date on their rabies vaccinations, have them revaccinated very soon; this will not harm your pets. Your pets form a barrier between your family and rabid wild animals. It seems very unfair that pets have to be destroyed simply because their owners did not have them vaccinated against rabies.” He also states that if you regularly feed strays on your property then you are the legal owner of those strays and responsible for their rabies vaccinations. Feeding strays without providing other care is not a responsible action given that rabies is now endemic to wildlife in this area.