A stray cat taken by someone to a family gathering in Delaware, USA, resulted in 17 people from 4 states undergoing rabies post-exposure treatment. The kitten was found by the side of the road, taken to the gathering (it’s unclear whether it was found on the way there or earlier), and when it became ill after the gathering, it was diagnosed with rabies. This is just one example of the potential for widespread exposure of people handling stray (or recently stray) animals at events like reunions, flea markets and sports tournaments. Because these animals (especially cute little ones like kittens) often get handled by a lot of people, a lot of people can be exposed to rabies if the animals are carrying the virus. These situations create major problems for public health personnel, because it’s difficult to identify all the individuals who were potentially exposed when they are dispersed across the country.

While generally uncommon, this type of scenario happens a few times a year.

  • Don’t bring stray, or recently adopted, animals to public events.
  • Ensure that your animals are properly vaccinated against rabies. Animals that have not been properly vaccinated should not be taken to public events.
  • Don’t handle stray animals.
  • If an animal that you have recently adopted gets sick, make sure rabies is considered and, if necessary, make sure the animal gets tested.