A rabid bobcat bit a Vermonter. What you need to know — and a map of recent years' cases.

·3 min read

Vermont health and wildlife officials have identified the year's fourth rabies case in an animal after a bobcat entered a Windsor resident's home and bit him.

The man captured the bobcat inside his bathroom before more people could be bitten May 13, according to Windsor Police Department. Vermont Fish and Wildlife wardens euthanized the bobcat before transporting the animal to the Department of Health Laboratory for testing.

In the meantime, the man was immediately brought to the hospital to receive treatment for the potential rabies exposure. The Fish and Wildlife department announced the results of the bobcat's lab test on Wednesday.

A raccoon sits in a live trap set by the USDA Wildlife Service in South Burlington on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The USDA was setting traps around the area mainly targeting raccoons, foxes and fisher cats to check on the spread of rabies.
A raccoon sits in a live trap set by the USDA Wildlife Service in South Burlington on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The USDA was setting traps around the area mainly targeting raccoons, foxes and fisher cats to check on the spread of rabies.

Rabies is a viral disease for mammals that is most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The virus affects the mammal's central nervous system, eventually causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Which animals typically get rabies in Vermont?

In Vermont, rabies is most often detected in raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. So far in 2022, tests have detected rabies in two skunks and a raccoon, in addition to the bobcat, according to data from the Vermont Department of Health.

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Bobcats infrequently appear in the Health Department data, which shows confirmed cases since January 2019. The only other rabies case in a bobcat during that period occurred in March 2021.

Domestic animals can also contract rabies if bitten by a rabid wild animal. Cats appear in the data at least four times since 2019, along with at least two bovines.

What to do if a human or pet is exposed to rabies

Vermont wildlife officials urge Vermonters to get their pets vaccinated against rabies and to avoid touching or picking up wild or stray animals.

“Contact with wild or stray animals — no matter how cute and harmless they may appear — can put you or your family at risk,” said Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Christopher Herrick in a statement. “It is not always apparent from looking at it that an animal has rabies, but any animal that is acting strangely or aggressively should be avoided and reported.”

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The Health Department recommends the following steps if an animal bites a person or their pet:

  • Call the doctor and town's health officer and follow their instructions.

  • Wash the bite wound well with soap and running water.

  • Try to capture the animal only if it can be done without getting bitten again. If the animal is wild, contact the rabies hotline or a game warden.

  • Call the vet if a pet was exposed to a potentially rabid animal.

People should call the Vermont Rabies Hotline for information about rabies or to report any animal that may be sick with the virus at 1-800-472-2437.

More information about rabies in Vermont can be found at healthvermont.gov/disease-control/zoonotic-diseases/rabies.

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-310-8585 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: A Vermont bobcat that bit a man had rabies — the 4th case in 2022