Media Contact: 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 feral cat along Back Road (Route 623) near the intersection of Pontzer Road (Route 697) north of Toms Brook in Shenandoah County. The cat attacked a person without provocation; it was later euthanized and sent for testing, which revealed that it was sick with rabies.
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 Shenandoah 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 near this location since October 7, should immediately seek care in the nearest emergency department. Pets who may have interacted with this cat should be seen by a veterinarian promptly.
“While this cat is no longer a threat, it may have interacted with other animals, including other cats, in the area while it was sick.” said Lord Fairfax Health Director, Dr. Colin Greene, “so the rabid cat’s disease may be present in other stray cats in the area, who may develop symptoms in the weeks to come. Feral cats have a particularly high risk of carrying rabies, almost as much as some wild animals, and 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:
- Avoid stray cats and dogs. Feral or unknown cats and dogs may carry rabies. Report bites or scratches from these animals to your physician or the health department right away. Feral cats are especially dangerous.
- Do not support “colonies” of feral cats. Feeding stray cats 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, and are ready to enjoy living with you.
- 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.
- 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 proper treatment soon after exposure.
- 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 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.
- 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 Shenandoah County Health Department at 540-459-3733.
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/.