3 sought after test finds cat is rabid Man, 2 children who took tabby for care could be in danger

November 28, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel and state health officials are trying to track down a man and two children whose kind deed of bringing a sick cat to a Pasadena veterinarian could cost them their lives.

The cat was rabid.

The three must be checked for exposure to rabies and, if necessary, start preventive treatment "ideally by Saturday," said Lisa Purvis, program manager for communicable diseases for Anne Arundel County. The typical incubation period for rabies is about 10 days.

"Rabies is an invariably fatal disease," said Karon Damewood, nurse consultant for the state Center for Veterinary Public Health.

A man with two elementary-school age children brought the female gray tabby, believed to be a stray, to Huffard Animal Hospital on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena between 5: 30 p.m. and 6: 30 p.m. last Thursday.

Julie Petersen, manager of the veterinary practice, said the man told them he thought the cat had been hit by a car, but the cat had no obvious injuries.

The man, dark-haired and stocky, told Huffard employees that he had seen the cat around his neighborhood for two to three months. But last Thursday "it didn't look right" and he put it in a box and brought it to them.

When veterinarian Bruce Goldman examined the animal, it behaved strangely, was euthanized and was tested for the disease, Petersen said.

She said efforts to find the man and children failed because the name, address and telephone number in Glen Burnie that the man gave them were bogus. It is common for people to give false information if they do not want to be held financially responsible for an animal's care, but the hospital will not hold the man responsible, Peterson said.

"This is a matter of saving their lives," Damewood said. "It is really important that they seek health care."

The man and children, and anyone else who believes they came into contact with the cat, should call an emergency health hot line, (410) 795-7365, Purvis said.

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, she said. But it can be spread if the animal's saliva touches a mucous membrane -- eyes, nose or mouth. Just touching the dry fur of an infected animal is not enough to contract the disease.

If exposure is suspected, a series of about five vaccinations over one month prevents the disease. However, once a person shows symptoms such as headaches and disorientation it is too late for treatment.

Last year, there were 55 human deaths in the nation due to rabies, none in Anne Arundel County, Purvis said.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 9 this year, there were 81 cases of rabid animals in the county, she said. In all of last year, 32 rabid animals were detected.

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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