Walton County Animal Control confirms case of rabies found in a local domestic cat

WALTON COUNTY, GA (Oct. 25, 2023) – Walton County Animal Control confirms that there has been a positive case of rabies found in a local domestic cat.

WCAC Director Shawn Morris said the cat was found dead in its cage at a veterinary clinic on Saturday morning. The cat is reported to have been at the clinic since Sept. 22 when it had been taken there to be treated for its wounds after being attacked by another animal. The cat began showing symptoms of the disease on Friday last week and by Saturday she was found dead.

“It was sent away to the University of Georgia to be tested for rabies and the results have come back positive,” Morris said. “That is why it is so important to have your domestic dogs and cats get their rabies shots.”

Morris said if a pet that has had its rabies shot and is known to have been bitten by another animal, or considered to have had a positive exposure, the pet will then need to get a booster shot and be in observation for 45 days. The cat that died as a result of rabies this weekend had not been vaccinated against rabies.

The staff at the clinic, which is in Bold Springs, are being treated for the exposure and the owners of the cat are being advised of the results of the test. They are reportedly from the Double Springs Road area.

The information given below is directly from the Georgia Department of Public Health on Rabies

What is rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals, usually occurring among reservoir wild animals such as
raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. The rabies virus travels from the site of the bite along the
nerves until it reaches the brain, where it causes encephalopathy and ultimately death.

Which animals get rabies

In Georgia, rabies occurs primarily in wild mammals (e.g., raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats).
Sometimes, these wild animals bite and infect domestic cats, dogs, and livestock. Rabies is rare
in larger rodents and lagomorphs such as squirrels, beavers, porcupines, guinea pigs, and
rabbits. Although small rodents such as chipmunks, rats, mice, muskrats, hamsters, and gerbils
are susceptible to rabies, it has not been reported in these species under natural conditions.

How is the rabies virus spread?

When an infected animal bites another animal or human, the rabies virus is transmitted in the
infected animal’s saliva. Rarely, rabies may be spread when infectious material from a rabid
animal, such as saliva, comes into contact with mucus membranes such as the eyes, nose,
mouth, or an open wound.

In some cases, it can be difficult to determine whether a person or animal has been bitten by a
bat. Consequently, if a person or animal has physical contact with a bat, or may have had
physical contact while in the same room with a bat (e.g., while the person is sleeping), and the
bat is not available for rabies testing, a health care provider should be consulted to determine
the risk of rabies transmission.

What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?

Early symptoms of rabies in humans are non‐specific and may include fever, headache, tingling
or numbing sensation in limbs, and general malaise. Later, signs of encephalopathy such as
insomnia, anxiety, confusion, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water) may appear. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of rabies in animals?

It is a misconception that rabid animals are spotted easily because they drool and foam at the
mouth. These symptoms may never occur or may occur only at the very last stages of the
disease. Any wild or stray animal that acts abnormal should be suspected of having rabies.
Rabid animals may stagger, appear restless, be aggressive, have difficulty walking, seem overly
friendly, or appear to be choking.

How soon do symptoms appear after exposure?

The length of time between the bite and the symptoms of rabies depends on the strain of
rabies virus, how much rabies virus was introduced into the wound, and the distance from the
site of the bite to the brain. Usually, the incubation period is quite long and may be one to
three months.

What is the treatment for rabies?

There is no known effective treatment for rabies once the symptoms of the illness have
developed. Rabies can be prevented in humans if medical care and post‐exposure prophylaxis is
sought soon after an exposure to the rabies virus. If left untreated, rabies is always fatal.

Can the rabies virus live outside of a rabid animal?

The virus is very fragile and is no longer infectious once the saliva dries. The virus can be killed
easily with soaps, detergents, bleach, alcohol, and ultraviolet light.

How can rabies be prevented?

Make certain that all owned dogs and cats are regularly vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian.
Teach children not to approach or play with wild or stray animals of any kind. Tell them that
even though a baby skunk or raccoon may look cute, it can spread very serious diseases. “Love
your own, leave others alone” is a good principle for children to learn. Also, do not touch dead
animals and keep wild animals out of homes and workplaces.

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