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Rabies cases up to five in Carroll County

The Georgia Public Health Laboratory has confirmed a bat in Bowdon and a fox in Roopville have tested positive for rabies. Both incidences involved encounters with a human and a dog.

The incident in Bowdon occurred when a bat was captured in a home on August 8 in the vicinity of Sally Ann Circle.

The next day, a fox attacked a woman and her dog while they were walking on Glenloch Road. She is the fourth person to be bitten by a rabid fox this year in Carroll County.

The Carroll County Animal Control Office previously retrieved a fox on June 30 near Lepard and Glenloch roads in Roopville. Two others were captured on May 20 and May 27 within 0.2 miles from each other in the vicinity of Highway 78, Villa Rica, and Old Villa Rica Road, Temple.

In the recent bat and fox incidences, both victims were counseled to quarantine their dogs and to begin post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, to prevent human rabies. In the U.S., PEP consists of a regimen of one dose of immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.

Both dogs have had rabies vaccinations in the past, said Seth Woodrow, District 4 Public Health’s environmental health deputy director.

“The dog’s owners have been directed to contact their veterinarians and doctors to discuss booster doses for their pets and vaccinations for the victims of the wild animal bites,” he said.

Treatment and prevention practices for rabies have proven to be almost 100 percent effective when initiated promptly.

Woodrow said the two rabid-animal encounters show how crucial it is for families to vaccinate their pets to prevent rabies. While rabies can be treated successfully in humans, there is no treatment for a dog or other pet who contracts rabies, and nearly 100 percent of cases are fatal.

The virus that causes rabies spreads through contact with saliva or brain tissue from an infected animal, but the virus cannot penetrate unbroken skin. It most often spreads through the bite of an animal infected with the disease. Though less common, the virus also can spread when infectious saliva comes in contact with a scratch or open wound (potentially through licking) or in contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.

The virus can be in a dog’s body for weeks before signs develop. Most cases in dogs develop within 21 to 80 days after exposure, but the incubation period can be much shorter or longer.

Rabies infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy (a disease of the brain) and ultimately, death. Early symptoms of the disease include fever and headache.

As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, a slight or partial paralysis, hyper salivation, and/or difficulty swallowing.

Georgia law requires owned dogs, cats, and ferrets to have a rabies vaccination from a licensed veterinarian. The animal should receive its first dose by 8 by 12 weeks of age followed by an annual booster or three-year booster, depending on what type of vaccine is used by the veterinarian.

Keeping up with the required state rabies vaccination law also keeps your dog safe in the event it bites a person, Woodrow said. If your dog bites a human and you cannot prove its rabies vaccine is current, the law may require a 10-day quarantine for your dog, or even euthanasia so his brain tissue can be examined for signs of rabies.

The most common wild animals that contract and pass on rabies are raccoons, which comprise about 35 percent of all animal rabies cases in the U.S., though the CDC says bats pose the greatest danger of passing on the rabies virus. Skunks, coyotes, foxes and feral cats are also known transmitters of the disease. Opossums and rodents are less likely to have rabies but could still pose a threat.

“If you notice a wild or nocturnal animal moving about in the daytime and the animal appears to show no fear of people or the animal seems to behave in a sick or abnormal way, the animal may be infected with rabies,” said Melinda Knight, District 4 Public Health’s environmental health director.  “People should avoid animals acting out of character and report it to animal control or their local environmental health office.”

For more information about rabies, please contact your local animal control office, county environmental health office, or visit the Georgia Division of Public Health at www.dph.georgia.gov/rabies or the CDC at www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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