Maine CDC Press Release

August 15, 2007

Rabid Cats Identified in Central Maine

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH 207-287-3270
Or John Martins, Director
Employee and Public Communications (207) 287-5012

AUGUSTA - The recent increase of rabies among domestic animals has prompted the State’s Health Officer to remind Mainers to be aware of animals acting strangely and to vaccinate their pets. Two cats have tested positive for rabies, one from Greene and another from Norridgewock, in the last week.

On August 5, a stray cat was killed by Greene public safety officials after it attacked and bit a local resident. The incident was reported to the town Animal Control Officer who prepared the animal for rabies testing at the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. The cat tested positive for rabies on August 8. As a result of the cat bite and to prevent human rabies infection, the person bitten will receive rabies shots.

On August 9, an outdoor, unvaccinated cat was killed by a Norridgewock resident after it had been acting strangely and bit its owner. The Norridgewock Animal Control Officer responded to the incident and submitted the animal for rabies testing at the State laboratory, where it was found to be positive for rabies on August 10. The owner received the rabies shot and other animals on the property will be quarantined or euthanized due to exposure to the rabid cat.

“We are seeing rabies among domestic animals more often, particularly in cats,” said Dr. Dora Ann Mills, State Health Officer and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC). “Its important to keep your pets vaccinated for rabies. Residents can also report stray cats to their local animal control officer or bring them to their local animal shelter.”

Since January, two domestic cats, one owned and one stray, have tested positive for rabies in 2007; however during 2006, six domestic cats tested positive for rabies, the majority of which were stray. An average of one domestic animal has tested positive in Maine since 2002. “Maine law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated because they are hunters by nature and may have contact with wild animals at high risk for rabies,” said Dr. Mills. “Dogs and cats may be vaccinated for rabies after three months of age.”

Livestock owners should also consult with their practicing veterinarians about vaccinating their animals for rabies. Currently there are approved rabies vaccines for horses, cattle and sheep, added Dr. Don Hoenig, State Veterinarian with the Maine Department of Agriculture.

Any bite, scratch or other exposure to an animal’s saliva may put a person at risk of rabies, if the animal is rabid. It’s recommended that the biting animal be captured and the incident should be reported to a local animal control officer. For more information on animal rabies in Maine, see the Maine CDC website: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/ddc/rabies_surveillance.htm or call 1-800-821-5821.