Two animals from two different parts of Warren County have both recently tested positive for rabies.
Dr. Colin Greene, the director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said that a cat originally from Front Royal tested positive for rabies on Tuesday. The cat was part of a feral colony on Fox Drive in Front Royal.
It is unclear how the cat became infected with rabies, raising some risk that other animals may have also become infected. However, the cat would not have been able to spread rabies to any of the other animals in the colony. That's because a volunteer sent the animal, which was injured, to a veterinarian on Jan. 23, before it could have become symptomatic. The veterinarian's office euthanized the cat on Tuesday because it started showing symptoms of rabies.
Greene noted that people should stay away from feral cats because they pose a risk of spreading disease.
"You shouldn't approach them, shouldn't touch them, shouldn't feed them and as hard-hearted as that sounds, (it's) because you don't know what they've been in contact with and whether they might be carrying a disease, specifically rabies," Greene said.
Feeding them is particularly harmful, Greene said.
"It seems like it's a kind-hearted thing to do, but they're really just assisting the cats to live in a very unhealthy environment," Greene said. "It's much better in the long run, not only for other cats that they might come in contact with, including domestic cats, but also for people they might come in contact with."
Also, the health district reported that a raccoon found on Knob Lane, off Bowman Hollow Road, in northwest Warren County, has tested positive for rabies.
On Monday, a dog owner found his dog fighting with a raccoon.
"The owner was not able to convince the dog to disengage, or the raccoon," Greene said.
The owner wound up shooting the raccoon in its body. Because the owner didn't shoot the animal in the head, Greene said, the health district could examine its brain for rabies.
The dog in that incident had already been vaccinated for rabies. It received an additional rabies booster shot and will be monitored closely for 45 days.
The booster shot helps ensure that the animal does not develop rabies, while the dog would be expected to start presenting symptoms within 45 days if rabies took hold in the animal.
Greene noted that people who were bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a raccoon in the area between Jan. 25 and Monday should go to the hospital emergency department.
Rabies is fatal to anyone who starts developing symptoms, but people who are exposed can avoid ever developing symptoms if they get treated shortly after exposure.