Texas County was placed under a rabies alert Nov. 24 after a feral cat tested positive for rabies.
Texas County Health Department director Jackie Smith said the stray cat was taken in by an individual who found it near their farm in a rural area in the southern part of the county. Smith said before rabies vaccinations could be started, the cat began showing signs of illness and was taken to a local veterinarian who initiated rabies testing that came back positive.
The owner and two other people who were exposed to the cat underwent and completed a series of anti-rabies shots.
“The rabies alert for Texas County will be lifted after 90 days if rabies activity is not identified in any more domestic animals or in a significant number of wild animals,” Smith said.
Statistics show that more than 90 percent of reported rabies cases are wild animals commonly seen in neighborhoods and backyards, such as bats and skunks. Smith said vaccinated pets provide a barrier between wild animals and families.
“Public health officials urge pet owners to make sure to visit their veterinarians and obtain or update their pets’ rabies vaccinations according to schedule,” Smith said. “By protecting their pets they also are protecting their loved ones.”
Smith said Texas County experienced one rabid animal last year – also a cat – and there is by no means an “outbreak” under way. Missouri altogether averages more than 50 rabid animals annually.
“Statewide that number includes only animals tested because they either bit a person or someone’s pet,” Smith said. “There were undoubtedly many more rabid animals in Missouri that went undetected.”
RABIES PREVENTION TIPS
•Avoid contact with wild animals and stray pets.
•Make sure dogs, cats and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccinations. They are also available for horses, cattle and sheep. The effectiveness of animal vaccines is the main reason for the nationwide decline in rabies cases among people and domestic animals.
•Keep pets under control; do not let them run loose.
•Do not keep wild animals or wild animal crosses as pets.
•Notify the local animal control office or health department if you suspect an animal has rabies.
•Seek medical evaluation when bitten or otherwise injured by an animal.