The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issues a reminder of the danger of rabies virus and the importance of vaccinations in pets. A stray cat that was captured in a mobile home park located on the Langford Court area of County Road 4 in Prattville has tested positive. The cat was submitted for testing by the Prattville/Autauga County Humane Society.
One person is currently undergoing prompt medical treatment to prevent human rabies infection following a bite from the cat. The local health department is investigating the possibility of other human exposures. The specimen will be sent for further confirmatory testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the data will be shared with the United States Department of Agriculture and state wildlife agencies for future rabies management decisions.
According to Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, “The incidence of human exposure to rabies has dramatically declined over the last half-century largely because of the vaccination of domestic animals against rabies.” However, he also stated that it is challenging to get people to keep their animals current on vaccinations.
The vaccination of pets against rabies is required in Alabama and is considered the best protection for pets and their owners. Dr. Jones reminds the public that it is important for people to be aware that rabies still exists in Alabama.
Raccoons are the primary reservoir for the rabies virus in Alabama. Raccoons transmit rabies to other animals through fighting after they have begun to exhibit behavior changes related to the infection. Stray animals are at most risk because they are usually unvaccinated and more likely to encounter raccoons and other wild animals.
Historically, infected raccoons have occurred in low numbers in Autauga compared to the counties located to the south, but this is the second positive domestic animal in the county this year. Dr. Jones comments, “This second case should serve as a not-so-subtle reminder to keep your animals’ vaccinations current.” Earlier this year, another cat tested positive in the area near Durden Road of Prattville.
The ADPH is coordinating with the county to provide additional opportunities in the community to hold vaccine clinics aimed at raising vaccination rates in animals that may not have current veterinary care.
In addition to vaccination, area residents are advised to take the following precautions to avoid possible exposure to rabies:
Do not allow pets to run loose; confine them within a fenced-in area or with a leash.
Do not leave uneaten pet food or scraps near your residence.
Do not illegally feed or keep wildlife as pets.
Do not go near wildlife or domestic animals that are acting in a strange or unusual manner.
Caution children not to go near any stray or wild animal, regardless of its behavior.
Advise children to tell an adult if they are bitten or scratched by any animal.
A person who is bitten or scratched by an animal should wash wounds immediately with mild soap and water, apply first aid, and seek medical attention or contact the county health department immediately.