June 21, 2019
For More Information, Contact VDH-Northern Region Public Information Officer Lorrie Andrew-Spear, Lorrie.Andrew-Spear@vdh.virginia.gov
Seek Help Immediately if You Were Exposed
(Winchester, Va.) — The Lord Fairfax Health District is notifying the public of a rabid kitten found near the Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department station, at 714 Rivermont Drive in Front Royal. The kitten was captured on June 17, along with two other cats. The cats, believed to be feral, were captured and taken to a veterinarian, who the next day noted abnormal behavior in the one kitten, which was euthanized. Subsequent testing demonstrated that the kitten was indeed ill with rabies. The other two cats were also euthanized.
Rabies is a deadly disease that is 100% fatal once symptoms begin, but it can be prevented with treatment if begun shortly after exposure. The Warren County Health Department would like to alert the community that anyone who received a bite or scratch, or was otherwise exposed to the saliva, from any stray cat or kitten in the area of Rivermont Drive, between June 8 and 18, should seek care in the nearest emergency department immediately. Pets who may have interacted with these cats should be seen by a veterinarian.
“Feral cats have a particularly high risk of carrying rabies, almost as much as some wild animals,” said Lord Fairfax Health Director, Dr. Colin Greene, “so the rabid kitten’s disease may be present in other stray cats in the area, who may develop symptoms in the weeks to come. Contact with any feral cat is risky, especially one that appears ill, and especially in that vicinity.”
The Health District strongly advises that people take the following steps to protect families and pets from exposure to rabies:
- Never approach or touch wild animals, especially any raccoon, fox, skunk, or bat, particularly if it is behaving oddly or if it is seen in the daylight. These animals are the main carriers of rabies in the eastern United States.
- Avoid stray cats and dogs. Feral or unknown cats and dogs may also carry rabies. Report bites or scratches from these animals to your physician or the Health Department. Feral cats are especially dangerous.
Do not support “colonies” of feral cats. Feeding stray cats or dogs without proper care only supports the animals’ unhealthy living environment. Please report such animals to Animal Control. Anyone seeking to adopt a pet is highly encouraged to do so from a shelter, where the animals receive proper medical care.
- If you are bitten, scratched, or licked by any of these animals, seek medical attention immediately. Rabies is fatal to both animals and humans once symptoms begin, but it can be prevented in humans if they receive a proper treatment soon after exposure.
- If the attack is from a cat, dog, or ferret, try to identify or capture it if safely possible. Rabies can be ruled out if these animals are observed to remain healthy for ten days.
- Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies (even if they don’t go outdoors) and keep their shots up to date. Even working cats on farms should be vaccinated, for their safety and yours.
- Do not feed wild animals. Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home.
- Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash. (Electric collars work on cats, too.)
- If one of your domestic animals is bitten or otherwise interacts with a wild animal, notify the local Health Department and animal control officer at once.
- Please cooperate when the Health Department calls for information. We are not seeking to take people’s pets from them. We do want to keep track of them so we can stop the spread of rabies.
Additional information on rabies is available from the Virginia Department of Health at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/environmental-epidemiology/rabies-control/.
For further information or questions, call the Warren County Health Department at 540-635-3159.
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The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.