Henry County rabies scare: Last kitten in parking lot giveaway turned in

The last of four kittens given away outside a Wal-Mart in McDonough — and spurred a rabies scare — has been turned in and will be tested for the disease, a Henry County health official said Sunday.

Three kittens in the litter and the mother cat were turned in last week. Tests on two of those kittens and the mother came back positive for the potentially fatal disease, health officials said. Officials are fairly certain the third and fourth kittens have rabies as well. They will be tested on Monday.

However, people who might have gotten scratched or bitten while handling the felines need not be concerned about contracting the disease, Vince Farah, a spokeman with the Henry County Animal Care and Control department, told the AJC Sunday.

“The virus was in its incubation stage, and wasn’t at the point where it was transmittable,” Farah said.

It all began when a woman took in a stray cat that later gave birth to four kittens. On Sept. 9, she and another woman went to the parking lot of the Wal-Mart to give the kittens away.

A man who had adopted one of the kittens took it to a veterinarian after the animal became ill. Test results returned Sept. 19 showed the cat had rabies. Henry County officials scrambled to locate the other cats.

After media reports of the rabies threat, a woman came forward with the mother cat, and another person turned in a second kitten. Test results returned Friday showed the mother and that kitten also had rabies.

The woman who accepted the fourth kitten turned it in Saturday after seeing media reports about the rabies scare.

For more information about the rabid felines, contact Farah at county Animal Control, 770-288-7387. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Rabies is deadly if left untreated. The virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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— Staff writer David Ibata contributed to this article.