Rabid kitten set off health alert in four states
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A rabid kitten set off public health alerts in four U.S. states last summer after it had been widely handled by players from several teams at a softball tournament, federal health officials said on Thursday.
The incident underscored the need to be wary of any stray animal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its weekly report.
The apparently healthy kitten had been found on July 14 in a garbage bin by a coach at a regional softball tournament in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, and was passed around by the players of several teams.
Health departments in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee -- which had teams in the tournament -- became involved several days later when the kitten was found to have rabies, a potentially deadly viral disease that infects the central nervous system.
Each state issued advisories to local health departments and alerted local news media.
A total of 38 teams had players and family members who were exposed to the kitten. From these, 27 had been licked, bitten or scratched and needed post-exposure rabies shots. The kitten was later destroyed.
The CDC said rabies vaccination programs had significantly reduced the transmission of rabies from domesticated animals in the United States. Domestic animals now account for just 7.9 percent of all rabid animals reported to the CDC, down from 82.6 percent in 1950.
Nevertheless, stray animals continue to pose a risk.
"Children should be taught to be cautious in their interactions with animals, especially those that are unfamiliar, to avoid potential exposures to rabies and other infectious diseases," the CDC said.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; editing by Michael Conlon and David Storey)