The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 27, 2013

Riverside girl, 13, treated for rabies after kitten attack

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

— RIVERSIDE — An attempt to corral a stray kitten ended up with a 13-year-old girl getting a rabies shot at Geisinger.

Juliana Balatincz and her mother, Brenda, both of 401 Gearhart St., first saw the stray kitten Monday sunning itself alongside two of its siblings in front of the house across the street. Thinking they belonged to their neighbor, the two tried to approach them when the kittens took off to another neighboring property, which is currently vacant. Juliana then tried to scoop up a dark, tiger-striped kitten.

“She put her hands under the cat to pick it up from the bottom and the cat flipped out on her,” scratching Juliana between her fingers, said Brenda. “She said ‘call the doctor, I’m scared.’”

Juliana went to see a Geisinger doctor, who told them to try and catch the cat to test it for rabies.

The family rented traps from the local SPCA and baited them with cat food. In a short amount of time, they caught the mother cat, which the SPCA recommended they free so that the kittens would gather near it. They then caught the other two kittens, but not the one that had scratched Juliana, The girl ended up getting a rabies shot Thursday afternoon.

Brenda said Juliana was worried and anxious.

Under the SPCA’s suggestion, they will still try to catch the mother cat and last kitten because the weather is getting colder. The two caught kittens are currently at the SPCA and are very friendly, Brenda said.

Last week, a New Berlin woman was bit by a rabid fox. Few details were available about the victim, other than that she was attacked while hanging wash on her clothesline, according to Dirk Remensnyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer for Union County.

The fox was shot and killed to stop the attack. The victim began treatment for rabies.

“Every time you see any animal acting weird, it’s not necessarily rabies. A lot of times, it’s something else they contracted,” Remensnyder said, adding that about 10 to 12 cases are tested in the Susquehanna Valley in an average year.

Raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats are “rabies vector species,” he said, meaning they’re more likely to carry the disease than other animals. “Anytime we get one of those with human contact or pet contact, we’re definitely going to test the wild animal.”

While the disease is always fatal in untreated humans and animals, fast medical treatment keeps it from becoming full blown, he said. Also, gone are the weeks of painful shots. Rabies now is treated with four shots in two-week intervals and administered to a muscular part of the body, usually an upper arm or leg.

“If there is a possibility you were exposed,” Remensnyder said, “don’t sit back and wait” for treatment.