Maiden cat tests positive for rabies

Catawba County officials are reminding residents to properly vaccinate their animals after the first 2012 rabies case was discovered this week.

On Monday, a local veterinarian notified Catawba County Animal Services that a cat needed to be tested for rabies. The cat, which was about four months old, was sent to the State Health Lab in Raleigh for testing. The State Lab notified Catawba County on Thursday afternoon that the cat tested positive for rabies.

The cat was an orange and white domestic, short-haired cat that lived in the Golf Course Road area of Maiden, said Jay Blatche, Catawba County Animal Services director.

Blatche said the county has seen small numbers of rabies cases in the last few years, but he said the virus is still present in the local wild animal population and a threat to animals and humans. He said the best way to protect your pets from rabies is to have them properly vaccinated for rabies.

“We’ve been doing pretty good and better than most counties,” Blatche said. “I don’t remember any positives last year. I think our public is definitely becoming more educated as to what a responsible pet owner is. They are keeping them vaccinated and reporting when an animal looks to have signs of rabies.”

If you need to get a pet vaccinated for rabies, contact your local veterinarian or visit Catawba County Animal Services. Animal Services charges a $5 fee for rabies vaccinations, Blatche said.

There is no cure for rabies, and an animal must be euthanized before it can even be tested for the virus.

In humans, the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water), according to the CDC.

If a person is bitten by an animal with rabies, the spread of the virus can be prevented through washing the area of the bite and seeking immediate medical help. There is no treatment for rabies after rabies symptoms appear.

Anyone who believes they had physical contact since Dec. 1, 2011, with the Maiden cat that was diagnosed should notify their health care provider.

For more information on rabies or rabies vaccinations, call Catawba County Animal Services at 828-464-7686.