Story by:Amy Yurkanin link

Two animals in northern Shelby County tested positive for rabies recently, so public health officials are warning residents to take precautions against the deadly neurological disease.

A cat in Indian Springs and a raccoon in the Heatherwood subdivision both tested positive for the virus. The raccoon had been fighting with a dog, according to a press release issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The two cases occurred within five miles of each other, so wildlife officials will investigate the extent of the disease in area raccoons, according to the statement.

“Rabies prevention is multifaceted,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Dee W. Jones in the statement. “It involves people taking precautions with wildlife, making sure their pets are current on rabies vaccinations, and always reporting an animal bite or other exposure to their medical provider or the health department.”

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and is always fatal, although treatment can prevent the onset of the illness in humans.

Symptoms of the disease include sore throat, chills, headache and vomiting. Patients get progressively worse, ultimately suffering from paralysis, coma and death. People who have come into contact with an animal that could be infected with rabies should seek medical attention.

Alabama law requires rabies vaccinations for pets older than 12 weeks.

The Alabama Department of Public Health encourages residents of northern Shelby County to take the following precautions:

  • Do not allow pets to run loose; confine them within a fenced-in area or with a leash.
  • Do not leave uneaten pet food or scraps near your residence.
  • Do not illegally feed or keep wildlife as pets.
  • Do not go near wildlife or domestic animals that are acting in a strange or unusual manner.
  • Caution children not to go near any stray or wild animal, regardless of its behavior.
  • Advise children to tell an adult if they are bitten or scratched by any animal.
  • A person who is bitten or scratched by an animal should wash wounds immediately with mild soap and water, apply first aid, and seek medical attention or contact the county health department immediately.