The York City Bureau of Health is alerting residents to practice caution with stray animals after a litter of kittens was diagnosed with rabies.
Found in the 300 block of East Philadelphia Street, the kittens have now been euthanized.
But because the stray kittens may have infected other felines or animals, the health bureau is advising the general public to "take extreme caution to avoid any wild animals that may be exhibiting unusual behaviors," according to a press release shared Friday afternoon.
"Adults and children living and walking in the area at least two blocks east to west and two blocks north to south should be on the lookout especially for stray cats and kittens that are overly aggressive and trying to bite or scratch, as well as kittens that are timid or weak and appearing ill," health bureau Medical Director Dr. David Hawk said in the release. "The Animal Control Officer of the York City Police Department should be contacted immediately for any abnormally behaving animal in the area by calling 911."
Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system. It is typically transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal to another animal and humans.
According to law, city residents must get their pets properly vaccinated for rabies, Hawk said.
"The best protection against rabies is to be a responsible pet owner and have your pet cats and dogs vaccinated. Our vaccinated pets are a first-line of defense between humans and wild animals," he said.
The health bureau learned of the rabid kittens after a woman, who had been feeding the strays, to the animal to the vet because it wasn't eating well, according to Terri Fitzgerald, a registered nurse with the health bureau.
The kitten wasn't eating because the rabies caused paralysis, and the kitten couldn't swallow, she said.
The woman, who was not identified, was scratched while feeding the rabid kittens. She is currently being treated with a rabies vaccine, Fitzgerald said.
While raccoons carry the most rabies throughout York County, stray cats and bats top the list in the city, she said.
"I've been here 22 years, and stray cats are definitely a concern. Stray cats are dangerous," Fitzgerald said.