JACKSON, Miss. — Today the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reports that the type of rabies confirmed earlier this week in a feral cat in Starkville came from a bat. This is the first rabies case confirmed in a land animal in Mississippi since 1961. The cat is described as a small black and white kitten.
Exposures to the rabid cat were first reported in downtown Starkville. The cat was then removed from the downtown area and dropped off in a remote area in the general vicinity of the Thad Cochran Research Park near the campus of Mississippi State University (MSU) where additional exposures occurred.
Further testing of the cat’s brain tissue confirmed that the cat was infected with rabies from a bat. Additionally, lab results of other animals found near the rabid cat were rabies-negative.
“We regularly identify bats with rabies in Mississippi, so these results tell us that the cat became infected after contact with an infected bat rather than contact with another animal,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “However, this serves as a reminder to never touch or handle bats, and if you do have exposure to a bat, contact your local healthcare provider and your provider can contact the Mississippi State Department of Health for consultation.”
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal or through the contamination of a fresh wound with saliva from an infected animal. Rabies is completely preventable if post-exposure shots are administered after contact with a rabid animal.
Mississippians can help protect themselves against rabies by taking the following precautions:
- Do not handle or touch live or dead feral animals, animals you do not know, or wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes and coyotes that can carry rabies.
- If you see a dog or cat acting strangely, contact your local Animal Control officials.
- Vaccinate animals when your dog or cat has reached 3 months of age, one year later, and every three years thereafter (using a vaccine approved with 3 year immunity), as required by state law.
- A bat that is active by day, found in a place where bats are not usually seen, or that is unable to fly, and is easily approached, could have rabies and should be avoided.
- Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Health officials urge anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a feral (wild) cat matching the description above on August 16 or up to ten days prior, to immediately contact their primary healthcare provider and the MSDH Office of Epidemiology at 601-576-7725. At this time there is no ongoing public health risk.
For more information on rabies, visit the MSDH website at HealthyMS.com/rabies.
Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.
Press Contact: MSDH Office of Communications, (601) 576-7667
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