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[UPDATE] Rabies Investigations in Grady County Prompts Health Department Reminder

By: Southwest Public Health District Release
By: Southwest Public Health District Release

[LAST UPDATED 2/10/11 at 6:00PM]

Grady County has a confirmed case of rabies and several other area counties are seeing cases.

WCTV spent the day speaking with veterinarians, animal officials, and pet owners about why pets should be vaccinated against it -- not only for their health, but also for the safety of their owners.

In many places, it's a required vaccine pets must receive.

Says Thomasville-Thomas County Humane Society Executive Director Ed Williams, "State law says you have to have your animals vaccinated for rabies once a year."

According to the Center for Disease Control, rabies is mostly a 'disease of animals' which humans can contract if they are bitten.

Studies show more than 90 percent of human rabies cases around the world come from dog bites.

"It sounds like something that's crazy and unheard of, but it happens more than people realize," says Thomasville-based veterinarian Laura Hall.

But experts say the United States is seeing rabies cases decline each year in animals, and the number of human cases is under a dozen.

Williams explains, "That's partially due to the rabies control law ... it's been in place for a number of years now, and the object of the game, obviously, is to control the spread of rabies."

Animal experts say the easiest way to protect you and your pet against rabies is by taking an annual trip to the vet to get your furry friend vaccinated.

Halls remarks, "If there's one thing you're going to do, I would recommend doing [vaccinating] ... you could really save yourself a lot of trouble for something that's very cheap and just done once a year."

For pet owner Waters Hicks, vaccination is just one step of being a good 'human' for your animal:

"It's just one of the basic things you do to take care of your pet ... they can't take care of themselves, so, you do."

Rabies can be found in the saliva of many animals, including bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

The Thomas County Humane Society says more than 120 dog bites were reported in 2010, but none of them were rabies positive.

Doctors say you should seek medical care immediately after being bitten by an animal you suspect is infected.

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Positive cases of rabies have cropped up in Southwest Georgia recently, including one here, says Grady County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Shane Huey, who reminded pet owners that keeping vaccinations up-to-date is the best protection against the disease.

“Since we know rabies is in the wild animal population, we are not surprised to see positive cases now and then,” he said. “Rather than alarming us, these cases should serve as a reminder of the importance of having pets vaccinated against rabies and making sure that the vaccinations are up-to-date.”

He said a case of rabies was confirmed in January in an unvaccinated pet dog in Grady County. Unfortunately, not only did the dog die, but the pet’s family was exposed to the disease, said Huey.

In addition, since the first of the year, environmental health specialists at the Grady County Health Department have investigated reports of animal bites by four dogs and a cat, none of which were current on their rabies vaccinations.

“These are all pets or neighbors’ pets,” Huey said. “I don’t believe anyone would want their animal to have to be quarantined for a minimum of 10 days or a maximum of six months and feel the anxiety of not knowing if they might have contracted rabies themselves.”

All mammals are vulnerable to rabies, including horses, goats and cattle.

Dogs and cats three months old and older should be vaccinated against rabies. Pet ferrets should also receive rabies inoculations, as should valuable livestock, Huey said.

Raccoons have accounted for many of the positive cases of rabies in Southwest Health District in recent years, but other animals in Georgia known to carry rabies include bats, foxes, skunks, bobcats and coyotes, Huey said.

Rabies has been proven to be almost 100 percent preventable when prompt action is taken, said Grady County Health Department County Nurse Manager Peggy Connell. “It is important to report any scratch or bite, or contact with a wild or stray animal to our environmental health specialists at the health department. Untreated, rabies is fatal,” she said.

For more information about rabies, contact the health department or go on-line to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.


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