BIRMINGHAM, MI – Oakland County health officials are urging pet owners to make sure their cats and dogs have up-to-date rabies vaccinations after a pet cat in Birmingham was confirmed to have contracted the disease.
“People and their pets are urged to avoid encounters with unfamiliar animals, and keep pets protected by getting them vaccinated,” said Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer for Oakland County.
“Rabies is a fatal disease for both humans and pets and there is no known cure.”
The confirmation in the cat case follows on the heels of confirmed cases of rabies in four bats and 11 skunks in Oakland County earlier this year, according to the Associated Press.
Last month, a dead sunk found in West Bloomfield tested positive for the disease. Other cities with confirmed cases in skunks include Troy, Rochester Hills and Southfield, the AP said.
Rabies can be fatal to humans, but can be prevented if the person gets a vaccine and medical treatment immediately after they are exposed to the virus.
Dogs and cats are routinely vaccinated against this virus during their regular vet visits. But health officials recommend people keep their animals on a leash when they are walked outside, as this will limit any encounters with wildlife.
“Outside cats have a far greater chance of encountering a wild animal that could be sick or aggressive,” said Bob Gatt, manager of the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center. “Keeping your cats inside is the best way to ensure their continued safety.”
Symptoms in wild animals include slow and unusual movements, a lot of drooling, aggression, and no apparent fear of humans.
Oakland County health officials offer these tips:
“If you or your household pet are bitten or scratched by a wild animal or an animal unknown to you, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical or veterinary attention immediately, even if your animal was previously vaccinated.”
“The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and is spread through bites or scratches. To report potential rabies exposure, call the Health Division at 248-858-1286. If bitten after Health Division business hours, seek medical attention for wound care. Your provider will work with the Health Division to report the bite and assess for potential rabies exposure.”