by GARETH MANCINI
Recently there have been reports of cats infected with rabies in Fredericksburg, some of which are being fed by students and staff on the UMW campus. A stray cat bit a Fredericksburg resident, according to a recent March 31 press release. On April 2, health officials confirmed that the stray cat tested positive for rabies. The cat is believed to be part of a cat colony that lives here in Fredericksburg, and there is a possibility other cats in the colony are also infected. The resident immediately received preventive rabies treatment.
Anna Billingsley, vice president of university relations, informed the UMW community of these rabies-infected cats on April 6th by sending an email from the emergency management and security office. The email warned people not to feed the cats.
“There has recently been evidence that wild cats are being fed on the UMW campus,” the email said. “This practice poses a real risk to the health and safety of students, faculties, staff, and campus visitors. Please help ensure the safety of our campus by not leaving food for cats, raccoons, and other wildlife that pops up live on our campus. The University [Facilities] The staff is entitled to remove any animal feed and / or containers found on the campus. “
Prior to the recent events, freshman Mackenzie Brooks had been feeding cats on her front porch since a litter of kittens was born in her neighbor’s stable in July. The kittens had migrated to their porch shortly after they were born and looked malnourished. Although she couldn’t keep them, she couldn’t turn her back on them.
“The mother never came back for them and they looked very thin that made me feel bad.” She had always refilled the bowl on her porch when she went out.
Brooks said, however, that she stopped feeding her about two weeks ago, “because of the recent incident.” She was concerned that “if a cat with rabies eats from the bowl, it may spread rabies to other cats that eat from that bowl”.
Until she knew about the rabid cat, Brooks wasn’t concerned about the likelihood of rabies spreading when she fed the cats.
“Most of the cats here have just been left behind, so I felt like the odds were off [rabies] The spread from the bowl of food that I left was not high. “
Colleen Cragun, a senior psychology student, has a similar attitude towards cats.
“I’ve seen a few stray cats in the area. If I notice one of them hanging around for a few days, I try to feed them because I feel bad,” said Cragun. “Some of them are friendly, but usually like to keep their distance.”
Sally Burkley, a junior political scientist, saw three cats in the faculty parking lot outside Monroe last week.
“I was on my way to Vocelli after work and I went outside and there were these three cats just staring at me,” said Burkley. She said they didn’t bother her, but she had seen more cats on campus lately.
To prevent the spread of rabies, health officials encourage residents to avoid contact with wild and unfamiliar animals. They also urge residents to report animals that are behaving abnormally and maintain current vaccinations against all domesticated cats, dogs and ferrets.
According to the United States’ Humane Society, rabies usually causes animals to act in two ways: aggressive or tame. If the animal presents itself aggressively, it will drool excessively and appear agitated. If the animal is tamer, the human may come closer than normal or even approach them. If an animal that is normally nocturnal, such as a raccoon or possum, is discovered during the day, it can also be a sign of rabies.
The disease can be transmitted through saliva entering an open wound or mucous membrane, typically through a bite and sometimes even a scratch. Rabies is a disease that affects the central nervous system. If the CDC is bitten or scratched by wildlife or an unfamiliar animal, they recommend cleaning the wound with soap and water and speaking to a local health officer or doctor to determine the risk of rabies. Rabies is easily treatable and deaths are rare in the United States. However, rabies can be fatal if left untreated.
Since the biting incident, UMW Emergency Management and Safety has recommended that students and staff not feed stray cats or other animals on campus.