People who had contact with a calf that was kept near a popular Rhode Island ice cream shop should contact health officials because the animal may have had rabies, state health authorities said Thursday.
The 3-month-old black-and-white calf, named Oreo, bit a Massachusetts resident on July 15. It was quarantined the next day and was found dead Sunday.
Oreo had lived in a pasture next to Gray's, a popular ice cream shop, and state health officials said they believe "a large number" of people may have touched the calf. Officials urged anyone who had physical contact with the animal since July 5 to notify the health department in the state where they live.
"It's an institution in Rhode Island, a beautiful place," said state veterinarian Scott Marshall, who said there is no rabies risk associated with eating ice cream from the shop.
The warning was being issued out of "an abundance of caution," Marshall said. Local animal officials did not notify the state for three days following the animal's death, and by that time the remains were too decomposed to test for rabies.
While rabies is typically transmitted through a bite, it can also be spread through saliva. Cattle and cats are the domestic animals most commonly infected with rabies, health officials said.
The owner of Gray's operates a dairy and pastures some of the cows near the ice cream shop, Marshall said. He said the rabies virus cannot be transmitted through pasteurized milk or ice cream.
"Milk used to make ice cream is pasteurized," Marshall said. "It's considered safe."
The owner of the ice cream shop did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press near the end of business Thursday.