NOTICE August 14, 2017
Illinois Department of Public Health
525 W Jefferson St, Springfield IL 62761
Dr. Connie Austin DVM MPH PhD
Work phone: 217-785-7165
Rabid unvaccinated barn kitten identified in Carroll County IDPH is sending this notice to alert veterinarians about how and when to report and how to submit animals for rabies testing.
On Thursday, August 10, a kitten from Carroll County (northwestern Illinois) tested positive for rabies at the IDPH Chicago laboratory. The specimen has been sent to CDC for rabies strain typing to indicate whether the kitten likely acquired the virus from a bat, skunk, or other wild animal species.
The kitten exhibited abnormal behavior – starting with lethargy and progressing to drooling, abnormal gait, and seizures starting August 2. The kitten was euthanized on August 6 and its body arrived at the IDPH laboratory August 10. All known exposed persons have begun rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), including two households and several veterinary staff. The Illinois Department of Agriculture recommended that all exposed animals be euthanized if the animals were previously unvaccinated for rabies.
The last cat (or dog) to test positive for rabies in Illinois was in September 2016. This cat was also a barn cat with seizures from Ogle County (northwestern Illinois). The cat was positive for a bat strain of rabies. Prior to that, we identified the last rabid cat in Illinois in 1996.
Background on rabies In Illinois, the bat is the most common species identified with rabies. Other species that are higher risk for rabies include skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. The virus is excreted in saliva and is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.
Once the rabies virus enters the body, it travels along the nerves to the brain. Barn cats may be at particular risk because they spend time outside, are exposed to wild animals frequently, and are often unvaccinated for rabies.
Animals with rabies may show a variety of signs, including lethargy, fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, paralysis, and seizures. Rabid wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans, and display unusual behavior; for example, an animal that is usually only seen at night may be seen wandering in the daytime.
Rabies infection of an animal can only be confirmed by examining the animal’s brain. Reporting of exposed persons or suspected rabid animals Any humans with suspected exposure to a rabid animal should be reported immediately. It is also required that any animals suspected of having rabies are reported to the Illinois Department of Agriculture immediately. Alerting the local animal control will allow for timely submission of the animal for rabies testing with the appropriate submission form.
Dogs and cats with signs of rabies can be submitted to the IDPH laboratories for testing. It is important to notify the local health department and/or animal control so the specimen can be prioritized for immediate testing. Animals submitted to the IDPH laboratory for rabies testing by 11 am can be tested the same day, otherwise testing will be done the following day unless it is an emergency sample that requires after hours testing.
Contact your local health department about emergency/afterhours testing for animals that have exposed a person and are suspected of having rabies.
1. Request for emergency testing (after hours and weekends) must be approved by the IDPH Communicable Disease Control Section before submitting the animal. If CDCS has not approved emergency testing, the brain will be tested through the usual routine of rabies testing.
2. If the exposing animal is to be submitted for rabies testing, ensure it is shipped overnight mail or hand delivered.
Prevention and control measures
• Vaccinate pets (whether indoor or outdoor) and valuable livestock for rabies
• Identify pets with neurologic signs of rabies and promptly submit specimens to a laboratory for rabies testing, especially when a human was exposed to the animal
• Bring animals with signs suggestive of rabies to the veterinarian as soon as possible
• Educate your clients with prevention education and instruct them to avoid contact with wild or unfamiliar animals or animals acting abnormally
• Seek medical attention immediately, if bitten or exposed to a rabid animal’s saliva or brain tissue
• Consider having employees who will have contact with higher risk animals pre-exposure vaccinated for rabies