Michael F. Easley
Governor

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Carmen Hooker Odom
Secretary

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: July 30, 2007

  Contact: Debbie Crane

10 People Receive Treatment for Possible Rabies Exposure;

Public Health Experts Stress Cost of Abandoned Animals

RALEIGH – Ten North Carolinians have received treatment for possible exposure to rabies after an incident with a rabid kitten at a softball tournament in South Carolina earlier this month. That’s prompting public health officials to warn about the cost of abandoning animals and handling stray animals.

“I estimate that the total health care cost related to this incident is at least $25,000,” Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams said. “That’s not counting the inconvenience they experienced or the disruption to their lives. The bottom line is that it is extremely irresponsible to abandon an animal. And, as cute as a stray kitten or puppy can be, you shouldn’t pet stray or strange animals.”

Williams says that cats are the most common domestic animal with rabies. “In addition to the South Carolina case, this week our lab has identified two other cats with rabies from Scotland and Alleghany counties,” he said. “This just drives home the point that you should never have contact with stray cats. Anyone who has had contact with a stray or feral cat should seek medical advice as to whether they could have been exposed to rabies.”

A number of North Carolina teams participated in the South Atlantic Summer Showdown in Spartanburg County. Teams from South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia also participated. The tournament lasted for several days but the rabid kitten was found on July 14. A coach from a western North Carolina team found the gray kitten in a barrel style dumpster, which was located behind the dugout at the Boiling Springs Youth Athletic Association Complex on Bryant Road in Boiling Springs. The kitten was placed in a box and taken later that day to games at other tournament locations. The coach took the kitten home to Buncombe County on July 14. It sickened and was put down on Sunday, July 15. The cat tested positive for rabies at the North Carolina State Public Health Laboratory.

Public health officials say that anyone who had contact with the kitten at any tournament location on July 14 had potential for exposure to rabies. Just petting the kitten would not expose someone to rabies. Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal or through direct contact of animal saliva with open cuts in the skin or through the mouth or eyes.

In addition to the rabid cat identified on the 14th, a second kitten that looked similar to the rabid kitten was found in the McDonald’s parking lot across from the Hwy 295 softball complex, which was also a venue for the tournament. Authorities haven’t located this kitten, but it is speculated that it is a litter mate of the rabid kitten and may also pose a risk of exposure to rabies. Anyone having contact with this kitten at anytime during the tournament should be evaluated for potential exposure to rabies.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health Regional Surveillance Team 6 (PHRST 6) has contacted all teams with potential exposure to the kittens. To date the only potential exposures involved the western North Carolina team whose coach had found the rabid kitten. All 10 people who are receiving treatment for potential rabies exposure were either members of that team or associated with the team.

North Carolina requires that cats and dogs be vaccinated against rabies. Kittens and puppies should be vaccinated at three months. There is no post-exposure treatment for unvaccinated dogs and cats, and they are required to be destroyed or quarantined at the owner’s expense for six months. Vaccinated animals need to receive a booster shot within 72 hours of exposure.


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Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
(919)733-9190
FAX (919)733-7447

Debbie Crane
Director