Polk County’s second confirmed animal-rabies case this year has public health officials reminding everyone about the potential dangers of rabies, urging pet owners to make sure pets are vaccinated against the potentially deadly disease, and warning residents in the densely populated downtown area around E. Girard Avenue, Cedartown, where the case, a pet dog, was found to be especially observant and cautious.
“You can´t tell if an animal has rabies by just looking at it. A clue, though, is if the animal is acting strangely, says the Polk County Health Department’s Environmental Health Manager Kathy Couey-Miller. “The best thing to do is to never feed or approach a wild animal. Be careful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don´t pet it, and if any animal is acting strangely, call your local animal control officer for help.”
Polk’s first 2018 rabies case, a raccoon, was confirmed last March. Polk County had three animal rabies cases in 2017, all of which were raccoons, and nine cases in 2016 – eight raccoons and a bat.
Officials emphasize animal rabies can be found throughout Polk County. “Rabies is regularly found in Polk County and is always circulating in our wild animal population,” says Couey-Miller.
She cautions residents to avoid wild, stray, and possibly unvaccinated animals that may be infected with rabies and emphasizes residents should take additional precautions to protect themselves, their families, and their pets. “Getting your pet vaccinated against rabies is the single best way to protect your family from rabies,” Couey-Miller says. “It’s important to do it for their protection, for our protection, and because it’s state law.”
“Reducing the risk of rabies in domestic animals and limiting human contact with wild animals are two measures central to the prevention of human rabies,” explains Couey-Miller. Other effective precautions against rabies include:
- Vaccinate all dogs, cats and ferrets against rabies. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pets have up-to-date protection against rabies. Remember that the vaccination of pets against rabies protects not only the pets, but more importantly, protects people.
- Don’t leave pet food out where wild animals can access it. Leaving pet food out is a sure way of getting wild animals to visit your home endangering you, your family and your pets.
- Remind children to avoid animals they don’t recognize, especially stray or wild animals. These animals may be infected with rabies.
- Small children should not be left unattended with dogs, even if the dog is a pet or the child is familiar with it.
- Keep pets at home. Obey any county laws requiring that dogs be restrained to the owner’s property. Pets that are kept close to home are less likely to encounter a rabid animal.
- Report any raccoon, fox, bat or skunk that is out during the day in a residential area or that is behaving strangely to the local Georgia Department of Natural Resources Game and Fish Division office at 1-800-241-4113.
- Report stray dogs and cats and aggressive or sick-appearing animals to the local animal-control office.
- Don’t attempt to assist injured or sick animals without professional help. Even animals which would never bite otherwise can bite when sick or in pain.
- Bats found in sleeping quarters should be captured and tested for rabies even when there is no evidence of a bite wound or contact with the sleeping individuals.
- After-hours calls involving aggressive animals should be directed to 911.
- After-hours calls involving animal bites and their potential for rabies exposure should be directed to 866-PUB-HLTH (866-782-4584).
Polk County residents can contact the Polk County Health Department’s Environmental Health Office in Cedartown at 770-749-2253 for additional information or with any questions or concerns.
Residents can also visit the Northwest Georgia Public Health website at https://nwgapublichealth.org/environmental-health/rabies for information on animal rabies and rabies precautions. Residents can also visit http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/ for comprehensive rabies information.