Health officials have reported the first case of rabies in Mississippi in 54 years. It was discovered in a small, black-and-white feral kitten found in downtown Starkville near the Mississippi State University.
Bats in Mississippi are common sources of rabies and the wild animals in neighboring states have been found to have contracted the disease as well. For nearly 60 years, however, no land animal in the state has succumbed to it, though it has always been a possibility. All mammals are able to contract rabies but some are more vulnerable than others. Raccoons, dogs, coyotes, cats, skunks, foxes, and ferrets are among the species more commonly infected.
Initially, the symptoms of rabies are not very specific: fever, headache, and a general sense of illness (malaise). As they progress, delirium and possible hallucinations can set in. This is responsible for the aggressive behavior commonly associated with the disease, but those infected can appear docile as well. The virus multiplies in the salivary glands, resulting in foaming at the mouth and an increased thirst. Since the act of swallowing causes painful muscle spasms at this point, both animals and people will display an aversion to liquids—hence the disease’s prior name of “hydrophobia.”
Those infected can transmit rabies up to 10 days before showing symptoms. If a vaccine is delivered before the major symptoms set in, survival is possible. Otherwise, the disease is fatal in all but the rarest cases. People in Mississippi are urged to avoid contact with dead or wild animals, to contact Animal Control if they see an animal acting strangely, and to ensure their pets stay updated on their vaccinations.
Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a wild cat matching the description of the deceased kitten is urged to immediately contact their primary healthcare provider or the Office of Epidemiology at 601-576-7725.
Source for Today’s Article:
“Starkville Feral Cat Is First Rabies Case in Mississippi since the 60s,” Outbreak News Today web site, August 20, 2015; http://outbreaknewstoday.com/starkville-feral-cat-is-first-rabies-case-in-mississippi-since-the-60s-11501/.