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Rabid cat puts Spring Hill neighborhood on alert

SPRING HILL — The white and gray cat on the back porch looked like it wanted water.

But when Linda Black and her son, 12-year-old Serkan Uzunboylu, opened the back door Wednesday morning, the last thing they expected was for the usually sweet neighborhood cat to pounce on them in a rabid attack.

"It clinged on to (Serkan) and bit him pretty good," Black said Friday. "And it wouldn't let go."

Since then, a total of seven people in their neighborhood near the intersection of Deltona Boulevard and Abeline Road have been treated for exposure to rabies. Test results that came back Thursday showed that the cat, which was captured Wednesday, was infected.

One of those exposed was the county employee who tried to catch the cat.

There could be more victims if it turns out that the cat's three kittens also had rabies, said county Animal Services manager Liana Teague.

Those results are expected sometime early next week.

"The cat was very aggressive, biting and attacking people and drooling," Teague said. "It also attacked one of the kittens."

In the meantime, Animal Services and the county Health Department are working to figure out how the cat became infected.

A neighbor reported seeing a raccoon wandering in the area, and traps have since been set to catch any other animals that might be sick.

"We're also doing canvassing and handing out copies of the press release in the area, (in case) there are any other victims who weren't aware of what was going on," Teague said.

Hernando County has been under a rabies alert since 2005. The last attack occurred in August when a fox bit a girl on Chisholm Street in Brooksville.

Past exposures in the county have involved foxes or raccoons that have been infected and come into contact with a person. In some instances, dogs have been infected by either of those type animals.

Black said she called Animal Services after she and her son got back into the house Wednesday morning. When the office asked her to see if the cat was still around, she went back outside and almost immediately, the cat started chasing her.

She doesn't think she was bitten, but definitely had a few red scratches down the back of her leg.

"I wasn't going to take any chances, so I got the shots, too," Black said. "I don't want rabies."

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or cbroadwater@sptimes.com.

>>fast facts

How to protect yourself

The Hernando County Health Department recommends that residents always follow these guidelines to prevent exposure to rabid animals:

•Vaccinate all dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of three months against rabies. Vaccinations should be performed by a licensed veterinarian.

•Avoid all free-roaming dogs, cats and wild animals.

•Do not feed or pet wild animals.

•Contact Hernando County Animal Services at (352) 796-5062 to report stray dogs or cats or to report wild animals exhibiting aggressive or unusual behavior.

For information on rabies, contact the Hernando County Health Department at (352) 540-6812.

Rabid cat puts Spring Hill neighborhood on alert 04/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 12:30pm]
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