Cook County Issues Cautionary Rabies Alert

October 11, 2016

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is warning Cook County residents to vaccinate their pets against rabies after two outdoor cats tested positive for rabies in Illinois and Missouri. 

In the last two weeks, one adult cat in Ogle County, IL and one kitten in Cass County, MO have tested positive for rabies. Cook County is among the counties that is increasing surveillance for the disease. 

 “Finding rabies in cats is unusual and Cook County Animal and Rabies Control wants to make sure all domestic animals are protected against the disease, which can be fatal,” Animal and Rabies Control Administrator Dr. Donna Alexander said. “Pet owners should not panic, but should take precaution to protect their pets.

The County is working with the collar counties and the Illinois Department of Public Health to test feral cats that would not normally meet IDPH protocols for testing.  Those protocols would normally require human contact with an animal suspected of carrying the disease, but arrangements have been made to test deceased feral cats that have not come into contact with a human. 

In 2007, Cook County passed the Managed Feral Cat Ordinance, which allows for the vaccination and sterilization of feral cats. More than 100,000 feral cats have been vaccinated and sterilized since the ordnance was adopted.  Humane societies that sponsor managed feral cat colonies have been notified to re-vaccinate all cats. Cook County is working with the sponsors to analyze feral cats for rabies.

In addition, Cook County has confirmed 20 bats have tested positive for rabies so far this year. Last year, 23 bats tested positive for rabies in the County.

The small brown bat is the major carrier of rabies in Illinois and is small enough enter a home through a crack or small opening.   Cat owners should be sure their indoor cats are vaccinated in the event a rabid brown bat enters the home. 

In addition, Cook County residents should:

  • Make sure all dogs and ferrets, in addition to cats, are vaccinated against rabies.
  • Be aware that outdoor cats may also come into contact with infected animals, which can include skunks and raccoons. Keep pets from roaming outside.
  • Not approach stray or unknown cats outside. 
  • Instruct all members of their family to use extreme caution in approaching an unattended animal, whether wildlife or domestic. Do not approach unknown cats.