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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (NHC) — The first rabies case of the year has been confirmed in a stray cat in New Hanover County. NHC Animal Control officers were called to the Bryan Road area of Wilmington on March 19. The cat was taken to an area veterinarian and treated for what appeared to be injuries from a dog fight.

The cat was then taken to animal control for the required confinement period, during which the cat’s condition worsened. The feline was euthanized and test results confirmed rabies.

Residents of the Bryan Road area have been notified that the cat may have been showing signs of the rabies virus since March 8, based upon clinical signs. A number of people came in contact with the animal and have been advised of possible exposure.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend animals that are not current on their rabies vaccinations be destroyed. Pets with up to date vaccinations should be re-boostered within five days. Pets should never be handled without protective gloves after being exposed to wildlife, due to the potential for carrying residual saliva from the infected animal. All pets should be vaccinated as a primary defense against the spread of rabies.

There are three primary routes of transmission of the rabies virus, which is carried in the saliva of the infected animal: 1) the primary route of transmission is through a bite which breaks the skin of the victim, 2) salivary contact to an open, fresh wound, or, 3) salivary contact to the mucous membranes of a potential victim.

When dealing with primary rabies vectors (raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats) or unknown animals, such as wildlife, it is recommended that the animal be handled with protective gloves to prevent viral transmission. People should stay away from any animal that they have not been cleared to hold or pet, including owned dogs or cats, and especially wildlife.

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