MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – The Monongalia County Health Department urges rabies vaccine for pets after some veterinary employees were bitten by a rabid kitten.
The employees are undergoing post-exposure rabies prophylaxis treatment, according to a registered sanitarian from the Monongalia County Health Department’s Environmental Health program.
The kitten was sent to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Laboratory Services for testing last Thursday; results came back Friday that the cat was positive for rabies.
“Rabies is spread through saliva,” said Dr. Lee B. Smith, Monongalia County Health Department executive director and county health officer. “If anyone has been bitten or scratched by an animal, they need to seek medical attention.”
According to Dr. Smith, Ruby Memorial Hospital and Mon Health Medical Center would be the only emergency departments in Monongalia County that would have rabies immunoglobulin and rabies vaccine on hand.
According to officials, Monongalia County experienced higher-than-normal instances of reported rabid animals in 2019 than in recent years, with 20 known cases of rabies.
The first reported case this year was in mid-February, illustrating that rabies is not just a warm-weather problem but one that can be found year-round.
Rabies is a viral disease found in mammals that attacks the nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov).
MCHD urges everyone to avoid animals they do not know, including raccoons and bats as well as cats and dogs.
All cats, dogs and ferrets should be up to date on rabies vaccines, as per West Virginia state law. Another precaution that residents should take is to not leave pet food outside.
Skunks, foxes and bats, along with raccoons, are common rabies carriers in West Virginia. For more information on rabies can be found by clicking cdc.gov/rabies/.