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South Jersey Officials Worried After Kitten Tests Positive For Rabies

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By David Madden, Elizabeth Hur And Jericka Duncan

BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) – A rabies scare is triggering a warning in South Jersey and the culprit may be a potentially rabid kitten on the loose.

Rob Morris said, “A lot of meowing and that’s why I felt so bad for him.”

Morris is referring to one of two kittens he and his wife found just outside their home on Arrowhead Drive in Burlington Township.

Morris said, “Now the entire neighborhood knows.”

Turns out, county officials made sure everyone knows.

Burlington County Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien explained, “The kitten was tested and it tested positive for rabies.”

The kittens were first spotted last Saturday night. The search is now on for the second kitten that disappeared into the woods. It has grey and white markings, similar to its sibling in the photo.

Morris said, “The only thing that surprised me is that it actually came up to me because usually a wild cat will scatter just like the first one did.”

According to officials, rabid animals’ behavior can range from suspicious to even friendly, as was the case here.

Robert Gogats, County Public Health Coordinator said, “Let us take them in first. We get the strays, we bring them in here. We make sure they’re healthy.”

We’re told, at the Burlington County Animal Shelter, hundreds of healthy kittens, cats and dogs are up for adoption everyday. Knowing this, Morris brought the kitten here hoping to find it a good home but instead ended up alerting authorities of a rabid kitten.

Morris said, “I’m shocked. It was a cute little kitten.”

“Yes they’re so cute but if they’re stray, you have to stay away,” O’Brien explained.

Gogats added, “Just be a good pet owner. Please be wary of any strays and any kind of wild animals and let the professionals do their job.”

If you’re looking to adopt, the Burlington County Animal Shelter is offering free cats and dogs to senior citizens and veterans at least through the summer.

As for the second kitten still “at large” — Health officials are asking residents not to attempt to capture the animal. Instead, they should contact Municipal Offices which, in turn, will contact the town’s Animal Control Officer.

Homeowners who allow their pets to roam outside unattended also should check the status of their pets’ last rabies shot. If it has been longer than one year, a booster shot should be given.

Ralph Shrom from the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders Office of Public Information provided the following information on Rabies:

County Epidemiologist Kristen Bartlett said, “Rabies is transmitted from infected mammals to humans usually through a bite, but scratches and saliva contact with broken skin or mucous membranes are also possible routes. Any person, who had direct contact with any wild or stray animals within the vicinity of Arrowhead Drive, may have been exposed to rabies. They should contact their doctor as soon as possible.”

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and is fatal in humans without prompt treatment. The disease is spread when a rabid animal’s saliva contacts another animal or human through wounds in the skin, typically a bite.

If bitten, anyone scratched or licked by a wild animal:

Immediately wash bite wounds with plenty of soap and water
Get prompt medical attention
Get a description of the animal
Report the bite to your local health department

For more information on rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/

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