SOUTH FORSYTH – Health officials are warning the public to be careful as a Forsyth County resident is recovering after being bitten by a kitten with rabies.
Georgia Department of Public Health District 2, which serves northeast Georgia, sent out information after the cat was found in the area of Atlanta Highway (Hwy. 9) and McFarland Parkway. The animal was confirmed to have the disease by a local veterinarian.
Details on the person or his or her condition were not immediately available.
In a news release, officials said feral cats, or those born in the wild, should not be treated like pets.
“Feral cats, unlike stray domesticated cats, are born in the wild and should be treated as wild animals,” the release said. “Do not attempt to capture or feed feral cats. Leave them alone. If you feed your pets outside, pick up any uneaten food so wild animals, including feral cats, will not be attracted to your property.”
The occurrence of rabies in people has declined in recent years, but residents should take steps to keep their pets safe, including keeping them away from wild animals and making sure their shots are up to date. Pet owners should also not let pets roam.
Wildlife is the most common way for rabies to spread, and locally there are traps in the area where the rabid cat was captured to secure other cats that might have the disease.
According to the release, the disease can only be spread by bites, but treatments are available.
“Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in the skin, or onto mucous membranes, such as the eyes or mouth. The virus enters the central nervous system of the host causing an inflammation of the brain that is almost always fatal,” the release said.
“Exposure to rabies is treatable by prompt care to the wound and appropriate post-exposure medicines. Prompt medical attention is very important, however, as rabies is almost always fatal without it.”
The most commonly infected animals are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and bats, while small rodents like squirrels, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rats, mice, rabbits and hares “are almost never found to be infected with rabies.”
The department recommends calling animal control if stray animal is found.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said if animals show symptoms of the disease, like mouth foaming or strange behavior, to call 911 or their non-emergency number at (770) 781-3087.
More information about feral cats can be found at Feralcatprogramofgeorgia.com and information on rabies can be found at Dph.georgia.gov/rabies.