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Posted on: April 12, 2020

Rabid Cat Alert In Prince George’s County

One person scratched by the stray cat is being treated; Health Department seeks public’s help identifying other people who may have been exposed

LARGO, MD— The Prince George’s County Health Department is alerting community members about a recent rabies exposure in Riverdale, MD. On or around April 3rd, 2020, a stray cat scratched an individual near the 5800 block of 67th Ave in Riverdale. The stray cat is described as an orange tabby, domestic short hair. The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) confirmed that the cat tested positive for rabies on April 8th.  The individual exposed to the rabid cat has begun rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. As a precaution, additional stray cats found in the area will also be taken in for testing.

Due to the risk of rabies exposure, the Health Department seeks the public’s help in identifying any persons who may have had contact with the confirmed rabid cat or additional stray cats in that area. If you know of any persons or animals that may have had contact with the above cat between March 22nd and April 3rd, please contact the Health Department immediately at 301-583-3750.

“Rabies is often a life-threatening disease; however, it is highly preventable by beginning post-exposure treatment immediately following exposure. Treatment is determined by the type of animal contact and patient assessment,” said Dr. Ernest Carter, Prince George’s County Health Officer. “Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal and is easily transmissible through a bite of an infected animal. The best method to eliminate the risk of rabies exposure is to avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. We encourage community members to report any unusual or erratic animal behavior they notice and to avoid handling and feeding any unknown animals in their community.”

When a person is bitten or exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal, the disease is prevented by administering four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period, and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin given at the beginning of treatment. Each year, approximately 900 Marylanders receive preventive treatment after exposure to a rabid or potentially rabid animal.

To prevent your exposure to rabies:

  • Do not approach, handle or feed stray dogs and cats, and enforce leash laws.
  • Have your dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated against rabies and keep the vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Do not leave pets outside unattended or allow them to roam free.
  • Cover garbage cans tightly and do not leave pet food outside; this may attract wild and stray animals.
  • Teach children to stay away from wild animals or animals they do not know.
  • Prevent bats from entering your home by using window screens and chimney caps and by closing any openings greater than ¼ inch by ½ inch. Bats found in the home should be safely collected, if possible. Please call the Prince George’s County Animal Management Division at 301-780-7200 for questions or assistance.
  • Wear gloves when handling an animal if it has been in a fight with another animal. Keep it away from people and other animals and call your veterinarian or local health department to report the animal exposure.

If you are bitten by or exposed to an animal that may be rabid, you should take the following steps:

  • If it is a wild animal, try to trap it if you can do so safely. If the animal must be killed, try not to damage the head.
  • If it is an owned animal, get the animal owner’s name, address, and telephone number.
  • Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water; if available, use a disinfectant to flush the wound.
  • Get prompt medical attention.
  • Immediately report the exposure to your local animal control agency, health department, or police.
  • Consider treatment if a bat was present and exposure cannot be reasonably ruled out (e.g., a sleeping person awakens to find a bat in the room, or an adult sees a bat in the room with a previously unattended child or mentally disabled or intoxicated person).

To learn more about rabies in Maryland, including rabies surveillance statistics and efforts to prevent and control the disease, please visit the MDH website.