One person is being treated for rabies exposure after a stray cat in Baltimore tested positive for the disease. It is the first rabid cat or dog found in the city since 2008.
Baltimore health officials said the female domestic shorthair was found one week ago in the 400 block of Kingston Road, just inside the city line near the Ten Hills neighborhood.
A resident found the cat, which had been injured, and took it to an animal hospital in the county, where it was immediately euthanized. The person who tried to rescue the cat is being treated for rabies exposure, city health authorities said.
County health officials said no one from the animal clinic was being treated for exposure. Such personnel typically receive routine pre-exposure immunization.
The cat had no collar or tags, said Olivia Farrow, a deputy city health commissioner. But it could not be determined whether it was feral or a stray pet.
Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Cats and dogs are typically infected in encounters with wild animals.
The disease is preventable in domestic animals through regular vaccinations. In humans, it can be prevented after exposure if medical treatment — a two-week series of shots — is given promptly. But once symptoms appear, rabies is almost invariably fatal.
The last case of human rabies in Maryland was in 1976. But rabid bats, foxes, raccoons and other animals are found quite often, even in the city, Farrow said.
Last year, 11 bats, one fox and 21 raccoons in the city tested positive for rabies. This year, city health officials said, six rabid raccoons, four bats and the cat have been found.
Only some are reported to the news media, Farrow said.
"As soon as we are aware, and we've taken care of the critical needs of those who may have been exposed, we also want to … canvass the neighborhood and give out information about the importance of making sure their animals are vaccinated," she said.
"We do make sure the community is aware, in the event their pets were exposed," Farrow said.
This time, she said, "we're putting it out citywide to make sure people understand that rabies is present in the city … letting city residents know if they have a pet cat or dog, it's really critical to have your household pets vaccinated against rabies."
Symptoms of rabies in animals include unusually aggressive or lethargic behavior, biting, darting eye movements or drooling.
Any person bitten, scratched or in contact with an animal suspected of being rabid is advised to wash the wound, seek immediate medical attention and contact the local Health Department.