2012-06-14 / Front Page

Rabid Cat Found Here

Needmore woman, son undergo treatment
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER

A southern Fulton County woman and her son are currently undergoing post-exposure treatment for the rabies virus following an encounter with a feral cat.

In speaking with the “News” Tuesday afternoon, Bertha Gordon said she has been caring for stray cats around her 10848 Great Cove Road, Needmore, home for 12 years. Gordon said she has given several cats homes, fed many more and even sought medical care for some.

One of those strays, a small, gray-stripped female, was a frequent visitor to the Gordon residence over the last seven years. Often found sitting at the bottom of the family’s driveway, the cat would patiently wait for Bertha’s return for its next meal.

That same cat would attack Bertha’s 24-year-old son Saturday evening as he tried to get into his vehicle. Pushing repeatedly with his feet to get the cat away from him, he would eventually end up with deep gouges and scratches on his leg. The cat chased the departing vehicle, Bertha said, and waited at the bottom of the driveway for her son’s arrival home later that evening.

Causing the Gordon family even more worry, the incident escalated further Monday morning. The cat emerged from the family’s garage running toward Bertha and her dog. Bertha stated she had begun backing away from the cat when it fell to the ground. Thinking maybe it had an injured leg, Bertha said her initial thought was to wrap it in a blanket and get it medical treatment. The crazed look on the cat’s face and its aggressive behavior quickly changed her mind, however.

Bertha said she was able to retreat safely to her home. The cat was later observed lying in the yard and under their car, where her husband was able to euthanize it.

The cat was transported by Bertha to the Department of Agriculture in Harrisburg for testing, which hours later revealed a positive result for rabies.

Given the cat’s aggression toward the other stray cats and the fact she had been bitten several weeks ago by a stray kitten, Bertha as well as her son are both currently undergoing the painful 15-day treatment for rabies. Bertha admitted the incident has been very traumatic, and she hadn’t realized how serious the situation was at the time.

Early signs of rabies in animals include changes in personality ranging from stuporous to unusually aggressive. Paralysis of the throat muscles is also a common sign of rabies, which causes an excess of saliva and an inability to swallow. The incubation period of rabies varies depending where on the body an animal has been bitten.

Pennsylvania law mandates all dogs and nonferal cats over the age of three months must have rabies vaccinations. Booster vaccinations must be given periodically to maintain lifelong immunity. The rabies vaccine is also available for other species such as livestock and should be administered on an annual basis by a veterinarian.

Early onset symptoms of rabies in humans are “nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation and hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention adds that death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

In future events where local residents have suspicions a wild or domesticated animal has been infected, the animal should be killed humanely without damaging the head. While wearing plastic or rubber gloves, the head should be placed in a sealed container and refrigerated with ice. Do not use dry ice, and do not freeze it. Game Commission representatives from the Southcentral Regional Office should be contacted immediately when dealing with wild animals by calling 814-643-1831.

Veterinarians can also explain procedures to have an animal delivered to a qualified laboratory for testing. Testing is free of charge from the state Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg at 717- 787-8808.

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