2010 Rabies Alert

March 12, 2010

Thomas Farley, MD, MPH

Stray Cat from North Riverdale Bronx Tests Positive for Rabies

On March 5th, 2010 a feral cat from in the North Riverdale section of the Bronx, tested positive for rabies. This is the first animal to test positive for rabies in the Bronx in 2010.

DOHMH encourages veterinarians to ensure that their clients’ pets are up-to-date for rabies vaccination, and to educate pet owners regarding rabies prevention.

Veterinarians should consider rabies in the differential diagnosis for any patient with a history of exposure to a potentially rabid wild or feral animal, and/or if presenting with progressive neurologic disease.

To date this year, a total of 69 animals have tested positive for rabies, including the cat mentioned in this alert.

For current information on rabies and animals testing positive for rabies in NYC visit www.nyc.gov/health/rabies

Dear Veterinary Colleagues,

On March 5th, 2010, the rabies laboratory at the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center reported a positive rabies test in a feral cat from the Bronx. The cat had been found in the North Riverdale section of the Bronx and was brought to a veterinary hospital in Westchester on March 1st with epistaxis, lethargy and unusual vocalization. Upon examination the cat was hypothermic, tachypnic and had hind limb paresis. Over the course of two days it developed ataxia, became unusually aggressive, and was seen lunging and attempting to bite staff near the cage as wells as trying to climb the walls of the cage. It died on March 3rd and was submitted for rabies testing. Several staff members reportedly had contact with the cat. The Health Department worked with the Westchester Health Department and the hospital and staff members and identified three persons for whom rabies postexposure prophylaxis was indicated. In addition, three other feral cats were potentially exposed to this animal and were collected and tested negative for rabies.

Rabies is most commonly spread to domestic animals by attacks from wild animals. To date in 2010, 69 animals (67 raccoons from Manhattan, 1 raccoon from Brooklyn, and 1 cat from the Bronx) tested positive for rabies at the NYC DOHMH Rabies Laboratory and Wadsworth. This is the first animal from the Bronx to test positive for rabies this year. Since 1992 when raccoon rabies first appeared in NYC, there have been 12 cats that have tested positive for rabies; 10 were strays. There has not been a rabid dog reported in NYC in over 50 years. There continues to be an outbreak of raccoon rabies in and around Central Park in Manhattan for which a Trap, Vaccinate and Release (TVR) program has been implemented to help prevent further spread of the virus. This is a reminder to consider rabies as part of the differential diagnosis for any animal presenting with a progressive neurological illness, particularly if the animal is a stray or if there is a history in which the animal was exposed to a potentially rabid wild or feral animal (especially raccoons, skunks and bats).

Maintaining vaccination against rabies is required for all dogs and cats in New York City. Any unvaccinated dog or cat that may have been exposed to a rabid animal is required to enter into 6 month isolation in an approved facility or be euthanized. If a pet is up-to-date with its rabies vaccine but potentially exposed to a rabid animal, a booster vaccine should be given as soon as possible, and the animal should be confined and observed for 45 days in the owner’s home.

Any healthy pet dog or cat that has bitten or scratched a person is required to be confined and observed by the owner (in most instances) for 10 days. If the animal is not current on its rabies vaccine, do not vaccinate it until the completion of the 10 day observation period. Animal bites are reportable to the DOHMH Veterinary Public Health Services (VPHS) Animal Bite Unit at 212-676-2483. For questions about whether persons should receive rabies PEP, contact a health care provider or the DOHMH Bureau of Communicable Disease (BCD) at 212-788-9830 during business hours (outside of business hours, please call the Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS or 212-764-7667). For questions pertaining to rabies preexposure vaccination and titer testing, contact the DOHMH Bureau of Communicable Disease (BCD) at 212-788-9830 during business hours.

Additional information about rabies is available on the DOHMH website at http://www.nyc.gov/health/rabies including summary data for New York City. DOHMH has also recently published a guide to human rabies prevention, available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/chi/chi27-5.pdf.

What All Veterinarians Can Do
Educate clients to:
- Avoid contact with wild animals.
- Make sure their dog or cat is up-to-date on its rabies vaccinations.
- Avoid leaving their pets outdoors unattended and feed them indoors.
- Avoid trying to separate animals that are fighting.
- Contact their veterinarian if their pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid.
- Report all suspected animal rabies cases to the DOHMH VPHS.

Contact us for more information
- Veterinary Public Health Services 212-676-2483
- Bureau of Communicable Disease 212-788-9830
- After Hours: NYC Poison Control Center 212-764-7667

As always, we greatly appreciate your partnership and cooperation.

Sally Slavinski, DVM, MPH, DACVPM Norma S. Torres


Home About Fact Sheets Location Testimonials Credits