By Josh Newton
TAHLEQUAH — The Oklahoma State Department of Health is looking for anyone who might have adopted, or had direct contact with, kittens that were advertised for adoption on the Tahlequah Online Garage Sale Facebook group, known as TOGS, on Oct. 1.
Adopting families picked up the kittens in the Walmart parking lot, according to the OSDH. The four kittens are described as approximately nine weeks old with black and white markings.
On Oct. 3, one of the adopted kittens developed symptoms consistent with rabies and was subsequently euthanized, the OSDH said Friday. Rabies testing at the OSDH Public Health Laboratory confirmed the presence of rabies.
According to OSDH officials, administrators from TOGS have been helpful in reaching out to group members, but so far, adoptive families have not been located.
Public health officials are asking those who adopted the other three kittens, or anyone who may have come in direct contact with the kittens, to contact the epidemiologist-on-call at (405) 271-4060 or (800) 234-5963, available 24 hours a day.
Health officials want to assess exposure to the rabid kitten and to locate the other kittens from the same litter quickly, as they may have been exposed to the rabies virus, the state said in a press release on Friday.
Health officials must conduct personal interviews to determine if people who had physical contact with the rabid kitten need to receive immunizations to prevent rabies, the state said. Those who were bitten by the rabid kitten or had the kitten’s saliva get into a cut or fresh wound on the skin or mucous membranes – such as eyes, lining of the nose, or mouth – may have been exposed to rabies virus.
According to the health department, rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted to animals and humans mainly by a bite, but exposure may also occur through inoculation of saliva or nervous tissue into an opening in the skin or mucous membrane. Some animals are more likely to be infected with rabies than others.
Skunks, bats, raccoons, foxes, and coyotes, have strains of rabies virus adapted to their species. The rabies viruses in Oklahoma include those adapted to skunks and bats. All warm-blooded mammals including dogs, cats, horses, and cattle can become infected with rabies virus.
So far this year, there have been 71 cases of animal rabies, including two cats, in Oklahoma. There has been one case in Cherokee County.
For more information about rabies, access the OSDH website at www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/Rabies.html.
Josh Newton writes for the Tahlequah Daily Press.