A Springfield cat has tested positive for the rabies virus. While rabies is endemic in Oregon’s bat population, it is rarely seen in cats or other pets.
“All dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies,” said Dr. Pat Luedtke, Lane County’s public health officer. “Protecting pets against the disease creates a buffer between humans and wild animals that may carry the disease and limits the potential spread of rabies. In this case the cat was not vaccinated; luckily it had limited exposure to other animals after infection.”
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and mammals. It is almost 100 percent fatal once symptoms begin. The virus is carried in the saliva of an infected animal; transmission can occur when that animal bites, or in rare instances, scratches another. Residents should not handle bats with bare hands and should keep their pets' rabies immunizations up to date. If bitten by a bat or animal suspected of carrying rabies, people should immediately, thoroughly clean the bite wound with soap and water and seek medical attention. If possible, the animal should be captured and the event reported to the county health department.
Rabies symptoms in wildlife include lethargy, walking in circles, loss of muscular coordination, convulsions, irritability or aggressiveness, disorientation, excessive drooling of saliva, and showing no fear of humans. Report this type of behavior to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFWL) at 1-800-720-6339.
Typically, animals acquire rabies by eating or coming in contact with a rabid bat. About 10 percent of the bats tested every year in Oregon have rabies. In 2016, 15 bats tested positive for rabies across Oregon; there were no confirmed cases in other mammals that year. Rabies in other wildlife is rare. However, if you know your pet has encountered a bat or been bitten by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian immediately.