Rabies case confirmed in Elkins

ELKINS — Officials announced Friday that a cat with “a severe case of rabies” was found on Weese Street in Elkins, and warned residents that other animals may have been infected.

A press release from the Randolph County Health Department Friday afternoon stated, “A diagnosis of rabies in an orange cat found on Weese Street in Elkins has been confirmed by the WV Office of Laboratory Services. This was a severe case of rabies which may have endangered other animals in the area.

“The Randolph County Animal Warden is notifying residents in the Weese Street area to avoid stray or unfamiliar animals, especially wild animals such as bats, raccoons or foxes,” the release states. “Owners of domestic animals in the area will be given 24 hours to show proof to the warden that their animals have been vaccinated against rabies or the animals will be impounded.”

The cat seemed to be a stray, a local veterinarian said.

“We just got the test results back late yesterday afternoon,” Dr. Eileen Lammie of All Creatures Great and Small Veterinary Clinic said Friday afternoon. “The cat came in to us ill and unable to stand, drooly and twitchy. It was a cat that didn’t really have a home and ate on somebody’s back porch. The owner found that it wasn’t well and brought it to us.”

The release states, “The orange cat was found on Weese Street Wednesday, Feb. 6, and was already severely ill. Anyone who came in contact with the animal should contact their physician.”

“Rabies is spread by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals. Infection requires contact with the saliva through mucus membranes or an open area of the skin,” according to the release. “Early infection may be marked only by a mild fever and headache. Symptoms developing after the incubation period of 20 to 90 days will be severe and include confusion, excessive salivation, seizures, paralysis, delirium and coma.

“While human infection in the U.S. is rare, it is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear,” the release continues. “Post-exposure, preventative treatment includes injections of rabies immunoglobulin and a series of four shots with the vaccine.”

Lammie said animals need to be vaccinated against rabies.

“The most important thing, is that we vaccinate for rabies even with indoor animals it is very important,” she said. “The vaccine with domestic animals is very effective even if they are bitten by a rabid animal on the face, which is the closest to the brain. As long as the vaccine is within the dating it will prevent the rabies from developing.

“I have seen about eight cases in my career, including this cat,” Lammie said. “When the cat came in it had a history with a leg injury about a month before. I would guess that some wild animal tried to get it, bit it, and transmitted the virus.

“Rabies is a neurotropic virus so it loves nerves. So say if an animal were bitten in the leg, it’s not like a bloodborne infection. You don’t get rabies all through the body within the week or so, like a flu epidemic,” she said. “It can be years later that the bite on the leg, the virus in the nerve endings, can travel fast or slow depending on the immune system of the animal, up the nerves into the spinal cord, into the brain and saliva glands. When it hits the brain it often makes the animal have a reflex bite. They aggressively desire to bite as it hits the hippocampus in the brain in a certain way.”