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Georgians possibly exposed to rabies

POSTED: August 11, 2007 5:04 a.m.
Health officials from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee are investigating possible rabies exposure at the South Atlantic Summer Showdown tournament that took place this month in Spartanburg County, S.C.
Softball team members, families and friends may have been exposed to a rabid kitten on  July 14.
On that day, a coach found the gray kitten in a barrel-style dumpster behind the dugout at the Boiling Springs Recreational Facility.
The kitten was placed in a box and taken later that day to games at the North Spartanburg Recreational Facility. The coach took the kitten home to Buncombe County, N.C., where it developed symptoms and was euthanized July 15. The cat tested positive for rabies at the North Carolina State Public Health Laboratory and results were available July 23.
State health officials are working with tournament organizers to identify and contact the teams that participated in the tournament.
The Georgia Division of Public Health is encouraging anybody who thinks they may have been exposed to the kitten to contact the State Epidemiology Branch at (404) 657-2588.
Public health officials cautioned that only people at those two venues on July 14 had any potential exposure to the kitten. They also stressed that just petting the kitten doesn’t mean that a person was exposed to rabies.
Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal or through direct contact of animal saliva with open cuts in the skin, mouth or eyes.
Following an exposure, the disease can be prevented with a series of vaccinations.
Early symptoms of rabies may include fever, headache, tingling or numbing sensation in limbs, and low energy. Severe cases include symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, high production of saliva, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water) may appear. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
It is a misconception that rabid animals are spotted easily because they drool and foam at the mouth. These symptoms may never occur or may occur only at the very last stages of the disease.
Any wild or stray animal that acts abnormal should be suspected of having rabies. Rabid animals may stagger, appear restless, be aggressive, have difficulty walking, seem overly friendly or appear to be choking.
To prevent this disease, make certain all owned dogs and cats are regularly vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian. Teach children not to approach or play with wild or stray animals of any kind. Also, do not touch dead animals and keep wild animals out of homes and workplaces.
 

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