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Rabies Confirmed in 2 Feral Kittens Found in Centre County

by on June 14, 2019 6:53 PM

Two feral kittens that were found living near Straley's Large Animal Veterinary Clinic in Hublersburg tested positive for rabies, according to a notice distributed this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

The kittens were found by a clinic employee in early June. One, which was orange and white, had a wound on its head, and the other, a brown tabby, appeared to be healthy. The orange and white kitten was treated and place under a 10 to-15-day rabies observation, during which time it began to show neurological symptoms and died.

The brown tabby kitten was also placed under rabies observation and began to experience leg paralysis. Its legs then went limp. Soon after the kitten began hypersalivating and died. 

Both kittens were sent to the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg, where they both tested positive for rabies on Wednesday.

According to the Department of Agriculture, several people may have been exposed to the kittens or other kittens and cats in a colony. Anyone in the area who had contact with these cats or kittens in the Hublersburg area within the last three to four weeks should contact Jennifer Johnson in the Department of Agriculture at 717-443-1181 and Lori Eckberg in the Centre County Health Department at 814-865-0932 for treatment advice.

Vaccination of domestic mammals is considered effective in preventing the spread of rabies. Under Pennsylvania law, all dogs and non-feral cats three months and older must be vaccinated against rabies and receive periodic booster vaccinations to maintain immunity. Failure to comply can result in a fine of up to $300.

Centre County had 12 confirmed cases of rabies in 2018, in bats, skunks, raccoons and a fox, though none in cats or dogs. No cases had been reported in the county for the first quarter of 2019.

A virus of the central nervous system, rabies can affect any mammal and is considered widespread in Pennsylvania. Its signs are categorized in two groups — furious and paralytic — and an infected animal may experience one, progress from one to another or show no symptoms until death, according to the Department of Agriculture's Animal Health and Diagnostic Services,.

Furious signs can include aggression, loss of fear,daytime activity by a nocturnal animals, attraction to noise and human activity, excessive vocalization, dilated pupils, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, restlessness, biting at objects or other animals, and possible drooling.

Paralytic signs can include decreased activity, poor coordination, hind limb weakness, and excessive meowing among cats. As paralytic rabies progresses, an animal may also drop its lower jaw, drool, be unable to swallow and become paralyzed.

Not all infected animals show all signs, and not all signs necessarily mean a rabies infection.

The incubation period — the time from exposure until symptoms begin —  can be as short as two weeks though in rarer cases can be longer. During the incubation period, the animal's behavior remains normal and it mostly cannot transmit the virus, though mammals may have the virus in their saliva and be able to transmit it for a short period of time before clinical signs appear. A vaccine administered during this time could possibly prevent the animal from developing the disease and prevent it from transmitting the virus.

Human exposure to rabies typically occurs by a bite or scratch from a rabid animal, or saliva from a rabid animal contacting a wound or break in the skin or mucus membranes such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

Rabies is preventable in humans if exposure is recognized and medical treatment given in a timely manner.

For more information on rabies, visit the Department of Agriculture Animal Health and Diagnostic Services page on rabies.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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