By: Paula Walter
There have been eight confirmed cases of rabies in Johnson County so far this year. Danielle Matherly, who lives in Trade close to the North Carolina line in a remote area of the county, recently suffered bite and scratch marks from a feral cat who had been staying near her home for the past two to three weeks. The cat tested positive for rabies, and Matherly is now undergoing a series of rabies shots. According to Matherly, the cat was purring and rubbing against her leg. She was in the process of trying to get the baby out of the car seat and was loaded down with the child and a diaper bag. “I kicked the cat away with my leg,” Matherly said. “The cat started growling at me and latched onto my leg.” The skin on her leg was scratched from the top of her calf to the bottom with broken skin and puncture bites. She was dressed in blue jeans at the time. According to Al Gryder, president of the Johnson County Humane Society, he just happened to be in the process of performing a security check when the phone rang. “Normally I do not answer the phone there because the facility is closed for business,” he said. “For some reason I did answer that call.” Matherly had called in wanting to obtain information on whom she should contact about the cat acting in a bizarre manner and then attacking her. After the attack, her husband killed the cat, as he feared it would strike again. According to Gryder, he advised Matherly to contact the sheriff’s office and have a deputy pick up the cat for testing as soon as possible. He further advised her to seek immediate medical care. “It had already been two days since exposure and time is of the essence in a case of possible rabies exposure,” he said. The car was taken to a local veterinarian, who removed the cat’s head and sent it to the health department for testing. The test came back positive. Untreated, rabies is deadly. Matherly is currently undergoing a series of rabies immunoglobulin and doses of human vaccines given over a four-week time period. She is experiencing headaches and an upset stomach since she began the shots. Costs are estimated to be approximately $22,000 after testing, vaccines, medication and emergency room visits each time she needs another treatment. Matherly does not have health care insurance. According to Gryder, callers to 911 about animal attacks have been advised to shoot the animal and bury it. In this case, it would have been deadly for Matherly. “Do the citizens of Johnson County have to wait until someone dies or is seriously injured to get animal control in this county?” he said. “I think not, but it will take you, the people, to get our elected officials to take action. Please contact the county commissioners from your district and the county mayor every time you have an animal problem.”
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