A kitten purchased from Amy's Pet Parade pet store in Minot, North Dakota tested positive for rabies last Friday (05 September 2014).
|Giles - Kitteh Model|
This has the potential to get really ugly. There were six kittens in the litter that were anonymously dropped off at the pet store 29 August 2014. Amy's Pet parade put the kittens on display the same day and the last kitten was sold this week.
The number of people potentially exposed is very high. All six kittens were exposed (assuming the infection and initial exposure happened before they were dropped off at the store). If they were on display, numerous people probably handled them, including store workers. They were sold, which means that multiple families were potentially exposed, the list goes on and on.
The North Dakota Health Department is asking anyone who may have been exposed to saliva from the kittens by being bitten, licked, or scratched to contact the department's after-hours number at 701-220-0819.
Rabies was a recent topic of discussion, as my father-in-law was visiting this week (he was a veterinarian in ND for 30+ years). We were discussing his "worst" case which was very similar to this one, only it was puppies. Apparently a puppy in a litter had been exposed and eventually developed rabies and died, all the other puppies had been sold or given away, there was a miscommunicaiton with the lab, and eventually it ended in some lawsuits and many people having to get vaccinated or tested.
Rabies is a very nasty virus. 100% fatal in humans (I think there have been a handful of survivors, four due to the Milwaukee, or Modified Milwaukee Protocol). Luckily, in the United States, there are very few human fatalities due to great prevention and vaccination efforts. In countries like India however, roughly 20,000 people die of rabies yearly (world wide total is 50-60k yearly).