Media Contact: David Morgan
Department of Health Reports Feline Rabies Case in Roosevelt County
SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) today reports an unvaccinated cat in Roosevelt County has been diagnosed with rabies and reminds owners to make sure their dogs, cats, horses and other livestock get vaccinated against rabies.
The domestic cat developed weakness in the hind legs and bit a person last week. The NMDOH Scientific Lab Division confirmed the animal had the deadly viral disease which affects the body’s nervous system. It can be prevented but not cured. The person who was bit by the cat received rabies post exposure medical treatment, which can prevent rabies from developing in them as well.
To date this year, seven wild animals, including six skunks, and one domestic cat have tested positive for rabies in Roosevelt and Curry counties. The cat in this current case represents the first domestic animal with rabies reported this year in New Mexico. Domestic animals are more likely to have contact with people, so pets infected with rabies have a greater chance of exposing a person to this disease.
“It’s important pet owners remember that there are wild animals in the area likely infected with rabies, and unvaccinated domestic animals, like this cat, could become infected,” said New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “Since pet dogs and cats can potentially encounter rabid animals outdoors and then potentially transmit the disease to people, it is very important to make sure all dogs and cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.”
The following guidelines can help protect you and your family from rabies:
• It is the law in New Mexico to have dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. This includes barn cats and other cat colonies. A rabies vaccine provides excellent protection against the disease.
• When outside their secure home or yard, keep pets on a leash at all times. Pets should be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and wearing current license tags on their collar. If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, call your pet’s veterinarian even if the wound is superficial.
• Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or dead). Teach this important message to your children.
• If you or a loved one are bitten by an animal, or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the exposed site immediately with soap and water for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to report the bite to the local Animal Control or Sheriff’s office and seek medical care as soon as possible.
• If you see a sick or dead wild animal, or a wild animal acting abnormally in this area, report it to New Mexico Department of Game and Fish at 505-476-8000. Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may even seem friendly or become aggressive.
For more information about rabies call the Reporting & Surveillance hotline at 505-827-0006 or visit the Rabies section of our website.