Area residents exposed and treated for rabies, cat and raccoon confirmed positive for rabies


CONTACT: Dee W. Jones, DVM, (334) 206-5969

Homer S. Bruce, DVM, (334) 745-0060

A cat with rabies has exposed four members of a family from Hurtsboro in Russell County and 11 staff members at an Opelika veterinary hospital.

In addition, a raccoon with rabies in Lee County has exposed one person. The most common variant found in domestic animals is the raccoon variant. Rabies infections in raccoons are common in some areas of Alabama, including Russell and Lee counties.

State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee Jones said, “Vaccinating your animals against rabies is the best way to keep your pets protected from the deadly virus.” He adds, "Animal vaccinations also help protect people, who many times are exposed when the animal first becomes sick and before rabies can be confirmed, just as with this recent case in a cat.”

The cat in question was a stray which attacked the owner’s dog, and the individual was exposed at that time. The cat was subsequently presented to the local veterinary hospital and was placed in quarantine. The cat died and tested positive for rabies on Friday, August 11.

One person in the clinic was bitten and 10 were exposed indirectly. All 15 people who were exposed were sent to East Alabama Medical Center for post-exposure prophylactic treatment for rabies and had been treated as of the evening of August 11.

Dr. Homer S. Bruce, Lee County rabies officer, said, “The key here is that all of the owner’s pets had received a previous rabies vaccination, and all have received rabies booster vaccinations post-exposure. Rabies vaccinations are so important in protecting your pets from rabies and thereby protecting humans from exposure through their pets.”

Alabama law requires all dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated at 3 months of age and annually thereafter unless they receive a 3-year rabies vaccine. The first rabies vaccination is only good for one year regardless of which vaccine a pet receives.

Rabies prevention is multifaceted. It involves people taking precautions with wildlife, making sure that their pets are current on rabies vaccinations, and always reporting an animal bite or other exposures to their medical provider and the Alabama Department of Public Health. In addition to vaccination, area residents are advised to take the following precautions to avoid possible exposures to rabies:

* Do not allow pets to run loose, confine 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.

“I ask everyone to please check their pet’s rabies vaccination status and to get them boosted immediately if they are not up to date,” Dr. Bruce said. “Lastly, stray animals hanging around your property can expose you, your children, your pets, and your livestock to rabies. Please contact your local animal control agency for assistance with stray animals on your property. As always, please be ever vigilant and aware of wild animals hanging around and/or acting out of place on your property.”

Contact your veterinarian if you cannot determine your pet’s vaccination status. Please call (334) 745-0060 if you have questions. Contact your veterinarian if you cannot determine your pet’s vaccination status. Please call (334) 745-0060 if you have questions.

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County health departments throughout Alabama provide a wide range of confidential and professional services. Contact your local county health department for additional information.

Mission: To promote, protect, and improve Alabama’s health

Vision: Healthy People. Healthy Communities. Healthy Alabama.