FRENCH CREEK - A cat in the town of French Creek has tested positive for rabies after an unprovoked attack on two people.
The Chautauqua County Department of Health recently submitted a cat specimen from French Creek to the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany for rabies testing. On Tuesday, Health Department officials were told the animal tested positive for rabies.
On Friday, the unprovoked cat bit two Chautauqua County residents. Neither person was seriously injured. Post-exposure rabies treatment was ordered to prevent the development of rabies due to the bite victims' direct contact with the rabies virus through the cat's saliva. Three more animals that were in contact with the cat are now being tested for rabies.
Because rabies almost always leads to death without treatment, exposure must be avoided. Post-exposure prophylaxis is also expensive, costing about $2,500.
"This unvaccinated cat displayed obvious 'furious' rabid behavior by attacking the victims,'' said Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County public health director. "Often times we also see where animals have 'dumb' rabies and act sleepy and sickly. No matter how sad it is to see an animal in need, keep away. It's just not worth the risk to you or your loved ones to be exposed to rabies. The most effective way to protect yourself is to learn about rabies and how to reduce the risk of exposure to yourself and your pets."
Schuyler gave several tips to prevent people and their pets from rabies exposure. They include:
Do not approach or handle any wild or unfamiliar domestic animals.
Keep bats out of homes and other living spaces by sealing small openings and keeping unscreened doors and windows closed.
If people or pets may have had contact with a potentially rabid animal, such as a raccoon, bat, skunk, fox or stray cat or dog, secure the animal if possible utilizing a barrier to prevent any contact and contact DEC wildlife officials or the Health Department for further guidance.
Wash any animal bites and scratches immediately with soap and water and contact your health care provider immediately. Call the Health Department to evaluate your risk of rabies, including whether rabies post-exposure treatment is recommended.
Keep your pet's rabies vaccination up to date.
Do not feed wild or stray animals and discourage them from seeking food near your home.
Keep garbage cans tightly covered and avoid storing any food, including pet food, outside.
Teach children to never approach any unfamiliar animal, even if the animal appears friendly, and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten or scratched.
Rabies is a disease of warm-blooded animals caused by a virus. Raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes are the common disease carriers. The virus is transmitted to humans and animals through saliva. It can enter the body from a bite, scratch, scrape or open cut. Two forms of rabies exist. An animal has "furious" rabies when it tries to attack and bite. When animals have "dumb" rabies, they are listless and sleepy and have varying degrees of paralysis. Wildlife infected with rabies act differently than expected. For example, animals usually seen out at night will be seen during the daylight hours.
State law requires that all dogs, cats, and domesticated ferrets over the age of four months be vaccinated against rabies. For more information about rabies and upcoming rabies clinics, call the Chautauqua County Health Department at 866-604-6789.