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Residents warned after cat is discovered with rabies in Virgilina

A cat in the area of Wilborne Road in Virgilina has tested positive for rabies.

The cat lived on the property of a resident and bit the man exposing him to rabies.

The resident is now undergoing treatment that involves a series of shots, according to a press release sent from the Virginia Department of Health Friday afternoon.

According to Halifax County Chief Animal Control Warden Todd Moser, the Virgilina man was bitten on the leg last Sunday.

Immediately upon being bitten, the man killed the cat and brought it to animal control to determine if it was rabid.

The victim then went to Halifax Regional Hospital where he began a series of 18 injections in the bite site Sunday, Moser said.

Following those 18 inoculations, he received eight more shots on Sunday for a total of 26 shots that first night.

He followed up with one injection each day of last week taking his last inoculation for rabies on Saturday, Moser said.

“He’s doing fine and is following up with his doctor,” he added.

The Halifax County Health Department and the Animal Control office are concerned that other neighborhood animals may have come into contact with the infected cat.

According to Moser, the cat was sent off to be tested on Sunday and came back positive on Wednesday.

“We caught all the remaining cats living in and around the property where the rabid cat bit the man and properly euthanized them,” Moser said.

Also a dog on the property is being confined for 45 days as a protective measure, he added.

Moser and other animal control officers distributed fliers and hand delivered written notices to area homes near the downtown Virgilina area where the rabid cat lived warning people of the potential risks.

Residents are being asked to observe their vaccinated animals for the next 45 days for signs and symptoms of rabies, including a change in behavior, excitability, irritability, staggering or biting.

According to Moser, the resident who was bitten said he was unaware that state law requires current rabies vaccinations for cats.

“It’s not only a preventative measure, but it’s state mandated by law,” Moser said of rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs.

“We do check animals for rabies shots,” he added.

Moser said it appears no one else was infected by the rabid cat, but he urged anyone who may be bitten by an animal to report it to animal control and seek medical attention immediately.

“My biggest thing is for people to have their animals vaccinated, whether they’re house cats and dogs or outside pets. Rabies is a deadly disease that there’s no cure for. If you get bitten by a rabid animal and do no seek attention, in three weeks everyone will know because they’ll be coming to your funeral,” he said.

People who have animals that have not been vaccinated and have no known exposure to a potentially rabid animal are being asked to vaccinate those animals immediately.

The health department strongly advises people take the following steps to protect families and pets from exposure to rabies.

Avoid contact with wild animals or stray cats and dogs;

Do not feed wild animals or stray cats and dogs;

Report stray animals to your local animal control agency;

Eliminate outdoor food sources around the home;

Keep pets confined to your property or walk them on a leash; and

Call your local Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries office or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for guidance about sick or injured wildlife.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. It is preventable in animals through vaccinations, but is almost always fatal to both animals and humans if left untreated, health officials said.

Exposure to rabies occurs from the time saliva or central nervous system tissue from a potentially rabid animal enters an open, fresh wound (a bite, scratch, etc.) or comes in contact with mucous membranes by entering the eye, mouth or nose.