The Allentown Health Bureau is alerting residents that rabies is present in the community after two stray cats recently tested positive for the disease.
Each cat had been brought to the Lehigh County Humane Society by a citizen who had found them. In both cases the cat was sent for rabies testing to the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories after exhibiting aggressive behavior, including the biting and scratching of people who had handled them.
One cat was found on Baker Drive on the south side of Allentown and the other was picked up along Vera Cruz Road in southern Lehigh County. “While rabies has been seen locally in wild animals, such as skunks, raccoons and bats, rabid cats are a rare occurrence within the city,” according to Associate Director of Health Jeff Stout.
As of December 3, Health Bureau investigators have identified 19 individuals, including 11 in one family, who had been exposed to the rabid cats. Each is undergoing a series of post-exposure vaccinations and is under medical care.
Stout urges residents to never feed or touch stray or wild animals, and keep their pets’ rabies vaccinations up to date through a licensed veterinarian. Feeding wild animals makes them less afraid of people and brings large numbers of animals into small areas which increases the risk of transmission of disease to humans and pets. Unvaccinated pets are at risk of infection, which also puts owners or family members at risk.
Take these precautions to prevent rabies:
•Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies shots need to be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian
•When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash
•Keep cats and other pets inside to reduce the risk of exposure to wildlife and other domestic animals. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside
•Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal
•Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please don’t leave pet food outdoors
•If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by a wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and Animal Control at 610-437-7535
•If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the City of Allentown Animal Control office at 610-437-7535 Monday-Friday from 8am to 4:30pm or the Lehigh County Humane Society after hours and on weekends and holidays at 610-791-1112
• For more information on rabies go to www.cdc.gov/rabies