October 31, 2012

Whitfield residents exposed to rabies by ‘indoor’ cat

Two Whitfield County residents are now undergoing rabies post-exposure treatments as a result of exposure to a pet cat that the Georgia Public Health Laboratory has now confirmed as positive for rabies.

The 15-year old cat had bitten its owner and exposed the owner’s fiancée to the disease before it died. The positive test result for rabies was returned on Oct. 26.

The cat was reported to have had rabies vaccinations in the past but was not currently vaccinated. Because of its age and since the animal was an indoor cat, it was thought that the probability of rabies was very small. In fact, the cat’s owner could not recall an incident when the cat may have been exposed to rabies.

Since the owner lives in the Middle Summit Drive area of Dalton between Cleveland Highway and Waring Road, which is a highly developed area of condominiums and apartments, public health officials went door to door delivering rabies notices.   

Although domestic dogs and cats typically become rabid within one to three months from exposure, much longer periods have been documented.

Some humans have not developed rabies until several years after exposure.

Rabies is usually transmitted by exposure to the saliva of a rabid animal through a bite or scratch. Wild carnivores such as bats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, bobcats and foxes serve as a reservoir for the disease virus and these wild animals can transmit it to domestic dogs, cats, livestock and people. Any direct contact with a bat or finding a bat in a person’s bedroom may call for anti-rabies treatments.

Never delay seeing a physician after a bite or scratch from a wild carnivore or from a stray dog or cat. Report all animal bites to the health department and to animal control. Also, be certain that pets are currently vaccinated against rabies and warn children to avoid contact with both stray and wild mammals.

For questions regarding rabies, contact the local county environmental health office or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at


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