Following a report of a Millstone Township resident who was attacked and scratched by a feral cat that was caught and tested positive for rabies, the Monmouth County Health Department is urging anyone who may have come in contact with the cat to seek medical attention.
In a May 24 press release, Monmouth County officials said the exposed resident, who will be seeking post-exposure prophylaxis, reported that the feral cat was seen recently wandering the neighborhood.
The cat was described by animal control as a large black and white domestic short hair cat with black markings on its face.
In the press release, county officials said any residents in the vicinity of Fern Drive who may have had physical contact with a black and white feral cat in that vicinity within the last 10 days should contact the Monmouth County Health Department at 732-431-7456 and seek the advice of their medical provider immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year from New Jersey occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks and bats.
The CDC states that the presence of rabies in all wildlife may be indicated by unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis, lack of coordination, unusually friendly behavior and/or disorientation, according to the press release from the county.
CDC explains that the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort.
As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms, according to the press release.