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County issues rabies alert involving feral cat

By Staff | May 12, 2017

The Jefferson County Health Department issued an alert for people who might have encountered a local feral cat that tested positive for rabies.

A person in the Magnum Court area of Charles Town was “exposed,” meaning he or she was either scratched or bitten by a feral white and brown tabby cat Monday that was determined two days later to have rabies, said Bill Zaleski, an environmental health specialist with the Jefferson County Health Department.

Anyone who may have encountered the wild cat in the same neighborhood and was scratched or bitten by the cat should seek medical assistance, Zaleski said. A wound from a rabid animal would have to break a person’s skin to endanger that person to rabies, he said.

A person infected by rabies has seven days to obtain treatment before serious medical symptoms set in that could become fatal if left untreated.

“If someone thinks they were scratched or bitten, they should see a local doctor,” Zaleski said, adding the anyone without health care coverage can contact the county health department for medical assistance. “Being scratched isn’t 100 percent sure you’re going to get rabies.”

The Charles Town resident who encountered the rabid tabby is receiving preventative treatment, which involves a series of hypodermic shots.

Zaleski said the county investigates “several hundred” cases of possible rabies exposure every year, including about three or four cases where a person encounters a wild animal that later tests positive for the disease. Occasionally, the health department handles rabies cases after hikers or others try helping a wild, wounded animal, such as a skunk or raccoon.

Anyone with questions can contact the Jefferson County Health Department at 304-728-8413 or 304-725-5075 after business hours.