GIBSONTON — A man in Gibsonton shot and killed a rabid tabby cat that attacked him on Thursday, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough.
Agency spokesman Kevin Watler said the man was walking past bushes near Nundy Avenue when the brown and black domestic shorthair cat jumped out of and grabbed onto his foot. He shot the cat, Walter said.
The victim is now undergoing treatment for exposure to rabies, a potentially fatal disease of the nervous system. He is expected to recover.
A 60-day rabies alert has been issued for the area north from Symmes Road to the Alafia River and east-to-west between East Bay Road and U.S. 41. Watler said the alert is intended to bring awareness that there might be rabid animals in the area and make sure residents and visitors are cautious.
Rabies cases in Hillsborough County have spiked in 2018, according to figures from the health department. So far in 2018, nine rabid animals have exposed 20 people and four dogs to the disease. Of those animals, six were cats, two were bats and one was a raccoon. In July, a Sun City Center woman was bitten by a rabid bat that clung to her arm in a parking lot. She didn't know it was there until she got home, she told DOH at the time.
In 2017, DOH said only three rabid animals were found to have exposed 10 people.
"We know that there are more animals out there that may have it," Watler said. "The numbers are definitely much higher than previous years."
Anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to the virus by a rabid animal is encouraged to contact the health department at (813) 307-8000. If pets are suspected of exposure, contact Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center at (813) 744-5660.