Seven Amado residents are going through a series of rabies shots after they were exposed to rabid kittens.
An Amado resident called the Pima Animal Care Center on June 4 to report that several of her kittens had recently died. She said her two dogs had been in a fight with a skunk two weeks earlier and asked whether the deaths of the cats could be related, said PACC Director Kristen Hassen-Auerbach. The skunk was killed.
The woman had just been bitten by another kitten and was concerned about possible rabies exposure, Hassen-Auerbach said.
PACC took custody of three dead kittens and one sick kitten and provided the woman with outdoor cat enclosures so she could keep her remaining 15 cats and kittens quarantined, Hassen-Auerbach said. The county also asked her to keep her dogs — which received rabies vaccinations years ago — isolated. It was unclear whether the dogs' rabies shots were current.
On June 7, PACC learned two of the kittens tested positive for rabies and PACC seized the rest of the woman's animals June 8.
The skunk, which had been buried, couldn't be tested because it had been dug up and devoured, she said. It's unknown if it was eaten by the dogs or wildlife, said Michele Figueroa, PACC director of operations.
An investigation revealed the woman, five relatives and a neighbor had direct contact with the kitten and will receive a series of five shots over the next two weeks, said Aaron Pacheco, a spokesman for the Pima County Health Department. There is no need to isolate any of those going through the vaccinations and studies show the vaccinations are 100 percent effective on people who receive the shots prior to displaying rabies symptoms, Pacheco said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an infected person could theoretically transmit rabies, but no such cases have been documented and contact with someone who is receiving rabies vaccination doesn't mean they've been exposed to rabies or they're at risk for an infection.
Rabies symptoms can show up within a matter of weeks up to a year.
"When they become symptomatic, the outcome is usually death," he said.
The two dogs taken in by PACC will be in quarantine for 45 days and the felines will be in quarantine for 120 days.
This is the first rabies case involving a domestic animal in several years in Pima County. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there have been 66 lab-confirmed animal rabies cases in Arizona this year.
Two of the cases were the Amado cats; a cat in Cochise County also tested positive, state records show. Skunks accounted for 34 cases, followed by 14 fox, 13 bats, one javelina and one coyote.
PACC chief veterinarian Jennifer Wilcox recommends booster rabies vaccinations for pets and livestock that may come into contact with wildlife, Hassen-Auerbach said.
The doctor also believes all cats and dogs should be vaccinated against rabies, whether they reside inside or out.