A feline in Roseau County is the first domestic animal to test positive for the rabies virus this year. This was an outdoor cat that was not vaccinated against the rabies virus and was part of a colony of about 20 other cats. The owner reported that the cat had attacked, unprovoked, biting the owner. The following day the cat was seen staggering around outside. Three days after the attack, the cat was still not acting normally according to the owner. It was euthanized the same day and tested positive for rabies on February 26. Post-exposure prophylaxis was recommended for the owner by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Though all mammals can contract this fatal disease, mammals that live or spend time outdoors are at greatest risk of coming into contact with skunks, which is the primary wildlife vector of rabies in Minnesota. In 2013, 36 Minnesota skunks were tested for the rabies virus of which 20 (56 percent) tested positive. Bats are the secondary rabies vector, posing a risk to mammals both outdoors and indoors (in buildings that are not bat-proofed). In 2013, 817 Minnesota bats were tested for the rabies virus and 36 (four percent) tested positive.
Rabies continues to be a threat in Minnesota. One of the simplest ways to protect ourselves and our families is to stay away from the wildlife vectors and vaccinate the animals most likely to come into contact with these vectors. By keeping dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses currently vaccinated against rabies, the people that interact with these animals are also protected. When feasible, livestock such as show cattle may also be vaccinated against rabies. Talk to your veterinarian about whether it is necessary or practical to vaccinate livestock.