HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A health alert out of Hanover, where nine people are being treated for rabies exposure. This, after a rabid cat was brought to a family gathering.
The nine in Hanover are part of a larger group. Eight more, from three other states also were exposed to this animal. The mom responsible told us off-camera, she didn't know it was rabid - and said it's the first time she's ever picked up a stray.
For a self-described animal lover, it was the only course of action. When she saw an apparently harmless kitten on the side of the road - she stopped, and put it in the car.
"However, in this case it turned out to be almost tragic," said Hanover County Chief Animal Control Kevin Kilgore.
The mom and her three kids were traveling from Hanover County up the eastern shore. On June 27, they picked up the stray in the town of Melfa. Then, they brought it to a family gathering in Bethany Beach, Delaware. It wasn't until they returned home five days later that the animal was diagnosed with rabies, which it apparently had the whole time.
"The people are being treated as a precaution," said Dr. Brooke Rossheim, Acting Director of Chicahominy Health District.
Seventeen people in all were exposed to the animal, including the mom, and her three children, who are now undergoing a weekly regimen of injections. Total cost: a thousand dollars a week.
"This regimen is extremely effective. Very effective, in terms of preventing human rabies," said Dr. Rossheim.
In the past 5 years, Hanover County has seen an increase in the number of positive rabies tests. But experts say the jump is not limited to just here.
"It's endemic across the state, yes sir. A lot of kittens are out this time of year, being born, there are gonna be a lot of strays, a lot of feral animals," Kilgore said.
All the people exposed to the animal, are said to be doing fine. And that makes them lucky.
"There is no effective treatment, per se, for human rabies. So we obviously, never want to get to that standpoint," Dr. Rossheim said.
Next time, the advice, would be this:
"If they see a stray animal, they should call their local authorities, animal control," Kilgore said.
Rabies kills 50,000 people a year, worldwide, but is extremely rare in the US. It's almost guaranteed to be fatal, but none of the people involved in this case actually contracted the disease.