The Richmond City Health District and Henrico County Health Department are reminding residents of Richmond and Henrico to take precautions to reduce the risk of people or pets contracting rabies from domestic and woodland animals.
Recently, a stray cat (Adult female, Domestic Shorthair, black fur with white paws and chin) that was a popular fixture at Bryan Park tested positive for rabies. Richmond Animal Care and Control took custody of the cat on February 19th after a park visitor was bitten while interacting with the usually friendly feline. The bite victim is a Henrico resident whose Post Exposure Prophylactic (PEP) treatment is being supervised by the Henrico County Health Department.
Visitors to Bryan Park who may have been exposed to this cat between the dates of February 9th to 19th are at possible risk for rabies and are advised to contact their public health department. Richmond residents should call the Richmond City Health District at 804-482-8020. Persons who live in Henrico should call the Henrico County Health Department at 804-501-4656.
Exposure is defined as any bite, scratch or other situation where saliva or central nervous tissue of a potentially rabid animal enters an open, fresh wound or comes into contact with a mucus membrane by entering the eye, nose or mouth.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. Once symptoms in humans develop, the infection is usually fatal. Administering preventive treatment following an exposure and before symptoms develop is critical in preventing the disease. It is important to seek medical attention promptly after a possible exposure.
The public is advised not to approach wild or stray animals either in urban or wooded areas or if they wander onto your property, especially if the animal is acting strangely. Take the following steps to prevent family members and pets from being exposed to rabies:
- Don’t attract wild animals into your yard by leaving out pet food or uncontained garbage
- Vaccinate all cats, dogs and ferrets against rabies and keep their shots up to date
- Don’t allow your pets to roam freely through the neighborhood; keep them on a leash when walking them
- Report stray animals to your local animal control agency
If you or your pet is attacked or bitten, report it to the health department or animal control authorities. Get a good description of the animal that you can provide to authorities.
For more information about rabies and animal bites, talk to your veterinarian, health department, or visit http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/DEE/Rabies/