One rabid cat, 7 victims treated in Hillsborough county

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Health tells Target 8 seven people are now receiving treatment because of exposure to a rabid cat in Hillsborough County.

Three suffered bites. Four others were unknowingly exposed when they performed surgery on the cat last week.

No one knew, but the cat spayed at Vets4Pets in Tampa was rabid.

The Florida Department of Health and Hillsborough County Pet Resources Center learned about it on Wednesday, but according to Russ Swisher of Vets4Pets, no one bothered to tell him.

‘I’m pretty angry,” Mr. Swisher said.

Four of his employees handled the infected cat seven days ago. He claims he received no notification from the state or county.

“In cases of rabies where peoples’ lives are at stake, and that’s what this is, peoples’ lives are at stake, that has to be immediate, it has to be quick,” said Mr. Swisher.

He called the cat’s owner to check on the patient.

“I found out from my client that the animal tested positive for rabies,” added Mr. Swisher.

An e-mail obtained by Target 8 shows the Department of Health and Hillsborough’s Pet Resources Center were notified Wednesday afternoon.

The e-mail from D.O.H. Environmental Specialist Courtney Lemay read, “There were three individuals exposed, one being a child. I have reached two of the three victims and are receiving treatment today.”

“I can tell you, I had no messages on my voicemail regarding a cat that tested positive for rabies at all,” said Mr. Swisher.

Wednesday afternoon the state issued a rabies notification for the 33613 zip code of Tampa.

The e-mail from Ms. Lemay confirmed a cat tested positive for rabies and bit three people hours before Wednesday’s Animal Advisory Committee meeting. Yet when asked, PRC Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Centonze refused to confirm another rabid cat in Hillsborough County.

“Do we have any more colony problems or anything?” asked Dr. Christy Layton.

“We have an X-21 case pending,” stated Dr. Centonze.

“I’m sorry, what does that mean?” asked Dr., Layton.

“The results are pending,” replied Dr. Centonze, “So we’ll have to see how it turns out.”

“Oh ok, another raccoon or a cat?” inquired Dr. Layton.

“A cat,” said Dr. Centonze.

This morning Russ Swisher asked his staff who worked with the cat.

“I had four step forward that said, I worked with that animal and one specifically said, ‘That cat tore me up,'” Mr. Swisher said. “So she is down being treated right now.”

The county explains that Dr. Centonze was awaiting a second confirmation test result when she told the Animal Advisory Committee the case was pending. Using that logic, she is stating the state started rabies treatment on people before rabies was confirmed.

This is the second case of rabies involving an outdoor cat in Hillsborough County this month.

If you have a problem that you think should be investigated, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.

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