Feral Cats Cause Rabies Outbreak in New Mexico


ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- A rabies outbreak in Carlsbad, New Mexico, has caused the suspension of  the Noah's Ark Animal Shelter's TNR program (trap/neuter/return) in which feral cats are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and released. The origin of the outbreak was traced to a rabid skunk that had been in a “tangle” with a group of feral cats returned to the wild under the animal shelter's TNR program, according to USA Today on April 15, 2012.

In addition, at least a dozen residents of Eddy County have been forced to get rabies shots, as a precaution that the deadly virus may spread to humans and other animals.  Sadly, more than 30 pet dogs have been euthanized because of exposure, according to officials.

Noah's Ark Director Angela Cary told the Carlsbad Current-Argus, "Unfortunately, more stray/feral cats will be euthanized in the next few months than ever, but we are doing so in an attempt to protect the people and pets in the community," Cary said. "The only thing that will keep us from having to euthanize more pets is if every owner in Carlsbad does the right thing and keeps their animals up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.” 

The Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control (rev. 2011) states that for effective rabies control, localgovernments should initiate and maintain effective programs to ensure vaccination of all [owned] dogs, cats…and to remove strays and unwanted animals.

Each year, about 50 to 70 New Mexicans receive post-exposure treatment for rabies, health officials report, but they were alarmed by the concentration of 12 treatments in a single county in just a couple of months this year.

Carlsbad Police Department Lt. Jennifer Moyers said all but three of the feral cats that tangled with the rabid skunk have been trapped and animal control officers are still attempting to trap the others.  Another rabid skunk was observed with a group of more than 10 feral cats on Canal Street. Moyers said.  Most of those cats have also been trapped but animal control efforts are continuing, according to the report.

One of the main dangers to humans, Noah’s Ark Director Cary said is that although residents are conditioned to "run the other way" if they encounter a skunk, if a friendly cat approaches a natural instinct is to pet it.  This is especially true with children.  "If rabies gets a foothold in the huge feral cat population, it would be extremely dangerous for pets and people, especially children."


On May 6, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first-ever case of human rabies in Humboldt County, California, when an eight-year-old girl, named Precious Reynolds, developed encephalitis—brain inflammation--and tests revealed she had rabies which she got from a" feral or wild cat near her school when it scratched her on the arm during recess." Precious said, “The cat looked like a regular cat.” http://www.opposingviews.com/i/feral-cats-may-have-caused-human-rabies-in-california

Precious came into the hospital with only a 2% chance of survival and was discharged from UC Davis Medical Center on June 22, 2011, to go home, according to ABCNews. She is only the third survivor in the U.S. without the rabies vaccine shots. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/given-2-chance-live-8-year-old-survives-rabies


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