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Stafford sounds rabies alert after two women treated with anti-rabies medicine

RELATED: Cats are primary carriers of rabies in the region



Stafford County animal control officers are attempting to capture a colony of six stray cats in the Garrisonville area after two women were scratched by a rabid stray cat in the same area on March 24.

The two women are undergoing through anti-rabies treatment. The animal control officer who reported to the scene was not scratched, but is also receiving the treatment as a precaution.

The cat was captured and confined at the Stafford Animal Shelter, and later euthanized when it showed signs of deteriorating health. A state laboratory test later confirmed the cat was rabid, according to a Stafford County news release.

The women involved with the incident notified animal control of six other stray cats that had been wandering the area. Because of concerns that these stray cats were exposed to the rabid cat, Stafford animal control officers are working to capture the cats to get them tested.

Bill Kennedy of the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that as of mid-afternoon Tuesday, four of the six strays had been captured.

In 2011, there were two confirmed rabies cases among the animals that were captured by animal control  in Stafford County, and in 2012 there were nine confirmed rabies cases. Usually at least one of those per year is a cat, according to Mike Null, the director of animal control in Stafford County.

Cats are a big threat as rabies transferors because more people feed and pet strays, while people are generally more wary of animals not associated with house pets, such as raccoons, Null said.

The animal control officers are using metal cages to capture the cats, similar to those used to catch raccoons.

With spring break underway for Stafford public schools, the Stafford County sheriffs office is working hard to keep the streets virus-free while more children are out enjoying their free time.

“We want to address it aggressively,” Kennedy said.

Any wandering cat that is captured in the trap will be taken in for testing, so area citizens are urged to keep pets close to home. Keeping cats confined to the yard will also help prevent the spread of rabies.

Charlotte Rodina:  540/374-5444