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Feral cat in southern Westminster tests positive for rabies

A young, feral cat found near Frizell and Bloom roads in southern Westminster was found positive for the rabies virus, the Carroll County Health Department warned Wednesday.

The cat had short, orange hair and was about 6 months old. An individual was bitten and scratched by the cat, and will be treated for rabies with a series of shots, according to a Health Department news release.

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“Rabies exposure occurs through bites and scratches or saliva from the animal getting into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound,” Joe Mancuso, rabies program manager at the Health Department said in a prepared statement. “We do a thorough risk assessment with every person who was potentially exposed to rabies through interactions with wild or stray animals.”

The Health Department is asking anyone who may have interacted with this cat who thinks that they or their pet could have been exposed to rabies through bites, scratches or saliva can call 410-876-1884 for more information and a risk assessment.

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Rabies is a “serious disease” that is transmitted in the saliva of an infected animal.

To date, 94 animals have been diagnosed with rabies in Maryland this year, including raccoons, bats and cats, according to the release. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, including domestic species such as dogs and cats.

Rabies is a deadly virus that can infect any mammal by attacking its nervous system. Infection by the virus is almost 100 percent fatal once symptoms begin to

Animals with rabies may act normally during the early stages of the disease, according to the release, which can make it difficult to know the animal is infected.

As the disease progresses, animals often show changes in behavior. Wild animals may act very docile and domestic animals may become aggressive, according to the release. Rabid animals may also stagger, drool or become paralyzed.

A rabies vaccine administered over a 14-day period and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of the series prevents the disease for a person who is bitten by or exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal. Exposure can be prevented by being careful around wild and stray animals.

“Observe wildlife and animals you don’t know from a distance, and keep your pets vaccinated,” Mancuso said. “The Health Department offers two low-cost rabies vaccination clinics each year to help county residents keep their pets vaccinated.”

The next of these clinics will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster.

To keep people and pets safe from rabies:

  • ​Do not approach, handle or feed wild or stray animals
  • Have your dogs, cats, and ferrets vaccinated against rabies and keep their vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Do not leave pets outside unattended or allow them to roam free
  • Cover garbage cans tightly and do not leave pet food outside
  • Teach children to stay away from wild animals and any animals that they do not know.
  • Prevent bats from entering your home by using window screens and chimney caps. Bats found in the home should be safely collected, if possible, and tested for rabies.
  • If a wild or stray animal is sick, injured or acting strangely and is in your living space, call animal control at 410-848-4810.
  • If a person or pet has been bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal, wash the area with soap and water for several minutes. Keep the pet away from other people and pets. Then call a physician or veterinarian and contact the Health Department at 410-871-1884.

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