Harford County health officials confirmed yesterday that an abandoned kitten has tested positive for rabies.
They are seeking anyone who might have had contact with other kittens, or the mother cat, that were left outside a Pylesville convenience store about a month ago.
"We don't perceive many people are at risk, but anyone who has been exposed is at great risk," said Bill Wiseman, county Health Department spokesman. "They are at risk for a potentially life-threatening disease."
Wiseman said the tested kitten was among a litter that was left in a box with its mother outside a High's convenience store at Routes 24 and 165.
He said two kittens were taken by people at the store, and the other kittens and the mother are missing.
Anyone who has handled the animals -- and been bitten, scratched or exposed to their saliva -- should immediately seek treatment at an emergency room, according to a statement released by the Health Department.
Anyone who is unsure about whether he or she has come in contact with these kittens or the mother cat should contact the Health Department through the county's emergency operations center at 410-638-3400.
Receiving treatment -- which involves a series of five rabies shots -- soon after exposure will prevent rabies, according to Health Department officials. Even those who have been previously vaccinated should seek treatment, they said.
Rabies is a viral infection that targets the nervous system. Early symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache and general malaise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eventually, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, and difficulty swallowing.
Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.