Be wary of rabies, protect yourself and pets

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 22, 2015

When someone sees a stray animal roaming the streets, their first instinct may be to transport the animal to the nearest shelter. However, Mississippians need to be careful when handling stray animals and ensure their own pets receive the required vaccinations to avoid contracting rabies.

The Mississippi State Department of Health recently confirmed the first rabies case in a land animal in Mississippi in 54 years.

The case dealt with a feral cat in Starksville that contracted rabies. Exposures to the cat were reported in downtown Starksville and in a remote area near the Mississippi State University campus.

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Testing of the cat’s brain tissue at the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory led health officials to believe “the cat was infected with rabies,” according to a press release from the MSDH.

Rabies, a viral disease, is typically found in bats within Mississippi or feral animals in states surrounding the Magnolia State.

This isolated rabies case shouldn’t be overlooked. Mississippians must learn how to protect themselves and their pets in order to prevent rabies from becoming a larger issue across the state.

Health officials urge Mississippians to avoid handling live or dead feral animals, including raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks. They also encourage people to call their local animal control officials if they notice an animal acting strangely.

The department advises pet owners to ensure their pets receive the required vaccinations, depending on their age.

Rabies is a serious issue but it is preventable as long as people follow the rules set by state law.

Health officials advise anyone who believes they’ve been scratched or bitten by a feral animal within the past 10 days to contact their primary doctor or the MSDH. The disease is preventable as long as those exposed receive a vaccination following the bite or scratch.

For more information about rabies, visit or call 601-576-7400.