Worried Anne Arundel health officials say time is running out for the good Samaritans who took a sick cat to a Pasadena veterinarian last week.
The cat had rabies, and health officials say the man and two children should be examined immediately for exposure to the fatal disease.
"Rabies is an invariably fatal disease," said Karon Damewood, nurse consultant for the state Center for Veterinary Public Health. "This is a matter of saving their lives."
The hunt for the dark-haired, stocky white man and two elementary school-age children began Wednesday, just as throngs of people left town for the Thanksgiving weekend.
"We would have hoped that if not him, then some family member or friends who knew him might have called, but that has not been the case," said Robert Weber, director of community and environmental health for Anne Arundel County. "There is a possibility that he may have been out of town like many people were for the holiday."
The incubation period for rabies typically is 10 days to two weeks, but can be longer, Weber said.
A man with two children took the cat, believed to be a stray, to Huffard Animal Hospital on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena between 5: 30 p.m. and 6: 30 p.m. Nov. 21.
Julie Petersen, manager of the veterinary practice, said the man told them he thought the cat had been hit by a car. But the animal had no obvious injuries.
The man told employees he had seen the cat in his Glen Burnie neighborhood for two to three months. But "it didn't look right," so he put it in a box and brought it to them, she said.
But it behaved strangely, was euthanized and tested for the disease, Petersen said.
Health officials learned Wednesday morning that the cat was rabid, Weber said.
Attempts to find the man and children failed because the name, Glen Burnie address and telephone number were fake.
Petersen said people commonly lie if they do not want to be held financially liable for an animal's care.
The veterinary practice is not looking to collect money from the man.
The rabies virus, which attacks the central nervous system, is spread through the saliva of an infected animal.
Most commonly, it is transmitted though a bite or other break in the skin, which could quickly heal.
But rabies can be spread if the animal's saliva touches a mucous membrane -- eyes, nose or mouth.
Touching the dry fur of an infected animal is not enough to contract the disease.
Anyone who came into contact with the gray female tabby or has information about the identity of the people should call an emergency health hot line, (410) 795-7365.
Pub Date: 12/03/96