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Keywords:

  • Rabies;
  • free-ranging cats;
  • raccoon rabies;
  • raccoon variant;
  • terrestrial rabies;
  • zoonoses;
  • encephalomyelitis;
  • post-exposure prophylaxis;
  • veterinary public health;
  • surveillance;
  • vaccination;
  • Pennsylvania

Summary

Rabid free-ranging cats have been a public health concern in Pennsylvania since raccoon variant rabies first was recognized in the state in the early 1980s. Over the last decade, between 1.5 and 2.5% of cats submitted to Pennsylvania's state laboratories for rabies testing have been positive. In this report, we describe the extent of rabies in free-ranging cats in Pennsylvania. We also present two examples of human exposure to rabid free-ranging cats that occurred in Pennsylvania during 2010–2011 and the public health actions taken to address rabies exposure in the humans and animals. We then describe the concerns surrounding the unvaccinated and free-ranging cat population in Pennsylvania and possible options in managing this public and animal health problem.