A search is on for a woman in Spring Hill, Florida who was attacked by a rabid cat while jogging.  The cat apparently jumped on the woman’s back without provocation while she was out for a jog. The cat was later caught and found to be rabid, but not until after it had attacked three more people and a dog. Since the cat has been confirmed as rabid, and it is certainly possible that it may have bitten the jogger during the attack, there is a real risk to the unknown woman of developing rabies.

The potential for rabies exposure should be considered following any bite from a mammal. If the animal is acting strangely (attacking joggers would certainly qualify) and it’s rabies vaccination status is unknown, the concern is much greater. It’s important to identify any animal that has bitten someone so it can be evaluated to deterimine whether there is a risk of rabies. This would include examining the animal for clinical signs of rabies, and checking its vaccination status. Being vaccinated against rabies doesn’t guarantee the animal doesn’t have rabies, but it makes it very unlikely. Depending on the degree of risk and the status of the animal, observation of the animal in the home, strict quarantine, or euthanasia and testing might be indicated.

This jogger probably needs to be treated for rabies exposure, unless a bite can be completely ruled-out. This post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) consists of an injection of anti-rabies antibodies, followed by 5 doses of rabies vaccine given over 28 days. It’s not fun, but it’s nothing like the old PEP method that people often hear about, which involved many more injections given in the abdomen. It’s a small price to pay to avoid an almost invariably fatal disease.

More information about rabies can be found in our rabies archives and on the Worms&Germs Resources page.