Kitten tests positive for rabies after biting three people in western Minnesota

Rabies vaccine
People who suspect they have been exposed to rabies are vaccinated in a series of injections.
Melanie Sommer | MPR News 2007

A kitten that bit three people in western Minnesota earlier this month has tested positive for rabies, state health officials reported Friday.

The kitten apparently was infected after being attacked and bitten by a skunk last month on a farm in Otter Tail County.

"Minnesota skunks have a very high probability of carrying the rabies virus," state Board of Animal Health Senior Veterinarian Dr. Courtney Wheeler said in a news release. "Anyone who observes a pet or livestock interacting with a skunk should contact their veterinarian and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for recommendations."

According to a news release from the Board of Animal Health:

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The owner of the farm reported that a skunk attacked the approximately 6-month-old kitten on the front porch of the home on Oct. 16.

"After separating the kitten and skunk, she recalled seeing blood and bite marks on the kitten’s rear leg," the board reported.

In early November, the kitten bit the farm owner, her 4-year-old son and her pregnant sister. The board reported that the kitten was then euthanized and submitted for rabies testing. On Tuesday, the kitten was confirmed to have been infected with the rabies virus.

The board "is in the process of completing its investigation to determine the extent of exposure to domestic animals on the farm, which includes two rabies-vaccinated dogs, nine additional unvaccinated cats, beef cattle and a horse."

The state Department of Health recommended post-exposure treatment for five people who may have been exposed to the rabies virus.

In the wake of the incident, the Board of Animal Health issued several reminders about rabies:

  • vaccinate all dogs, cats, ferrets and horses against the rabies virus and keep them up to date.

  • if pets or livestock are bitten by a bat, skunk or other wild animal, confine them and consult a veterinarian within four days.

State officials have reported incidents involving rabid bats in the Twin Cities at least twice in the past two years — in September of this year, and in June 2018.

Anyone with questions or concerns about rabies can call the Minnesota Department of Health at (651) 201-5414.

Find more information about rabies — including a map of where positive cases have been reported in Minnesota — on the Board of Animal Health's website.