PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — The Prince George's County health department is sending an alert to residents after a rabid cat was found in Suitland, Maryland. The cat was seen playing with a kitten, but that kitten has not been caught, leading to the warning.
Around Jan. 8, a stray black domestic short hair cat was seen in the area of Fairhill Drive, near the D.C.-Maryland state line, showing abnormal behavior. It bit one person, and was taken to animal management. The cat was surrendered and tested for rabies, which the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) confirmed that the cat tested positive on Jan. 11.
A resident informed officials that another stray multicolored black, white, and orange short haired kitten was seen playing with the rabid cat. The kitten has not been seen since Jan. 14.
Due to the risk of rabies exposure, the Prince George's County Health Department (PGCHD) is asking for the public’s help in finding any persons who may have had contact with the cats in the listed area. If you know of any persons or animals that may have had contact with the above cat or kitten between Dec. 28, 2022, and Jan. 8, 2023, contact the health department immediately at 301-583-3751.
"The best method to eliminate the risk of rabies exposure is to avoid contact with unfamiliar animals," PGCHD said. "We encourage community members to report any unusual or erratic animal behavior they notice and to avoid handling and feeding any unknown animals in their community.”
Here are tips from the health department on how to handle rabies:
To prevent exposure to rabies:
- Do not approach, handle or feed stray dogs and cats, and enforce leash laws.
- Teach your children not to approach any unfamiliar animals.
- Have your dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated against rabies and keep the vaccinations up to date.
- Do not leave pets outside unattended or allow them to roam free.
- Cover garbage cans tightly and do not leave pet food outside; this may attract wild and stray animals.
- Teach children to stay away from wild animals or animals they do not know.
- Prevent bats from entering your home by using window screens and chimney caps and by closing any openings greater than ¼ inch by ½ inch. Bats found in the home should be safely collected, if possible, and tested for rabies.
- Wear gloves when handling an animal if it has been in a fight with another animal. Keep it away from people and other animals and call your veterinarian or local health department to report the animal exposure.
If bitten by or exposed to an animal that may be rabid, you should take the following steps:
- If it is a wild animal, try to trap it if you can do so safely. If the animal must be killed, try not to damage the head.
- If it is an owned animal, get the animal owner's name, address, and telephone number.
- Immediately wash the wound well with soap and water; if available, use a disinfectant to flush the wound.
- Get prompt medical attention.
- Immediately report the exposure to your local animal control agency, health department, or police.
- Consider treatment if a bat was present and exposure cannot be reasonably ruled out.