Rabies awareness: What you should know

By Cade Fowler - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Just about everyday DNR rangers in DOugherty County receive a familiar call from someone who's seen a critter that seems to be far away from its natural habitat.

Perhaps it has to do with recent news reports of fox attacks on humans that have some residents concerned.

"It seems we are getting more calls than usual. The population is expanding," says Brian Vickery with the Dept. of Natural Resources.

It's not everyday you see a fox roaming the streets, but its natural habitat is coinciding with residential neighborhoods.

And there's a good explanation behind why a vixen might be taking a stroll through your backyard.

"The females who've had pups recently, they're trying to feed and nourish those so you're seeing them using daylight hours for feeding opportunities," says Vickery.

Rangers say a non aggressive fox is usually harmless to humans. But there are certain signs one should look for.

"Its ears lowered, its tail tucked under, swaggering its walk, an obvious sickness that it doesn't look normal. Just because you're seeing one in daylight hours doesn't mean there's something wrong with it," said Vickery.

This year, only 4 confirmed rabies cases have been reported in surrounding counties. A raccoon and bat both tested positive in Sumter County.

But the rabies numbers from last year are quite high.

"In 2009 we had 24 confirmed cases of rabies out of 55 heads that were tested," says Environmental Health Director Dewayne Tanner.

And because our pets are especially vulnerable to animal attacks, it's important to get them vaccinated.

"If they were to get bitten by a rabid animal they would just need a booster shot," Tanner says. Otherwise, the outcome would most certainly result in death.

Aside from foxes and raccoons; coyotes, skunks, bobcats, and bats are known carriers of the rabies virus.

Bats are perhaps the most dangerous. One of the last reported cases of human rabies in Georgia was caused by a bat bite.

Public health officials say if you find a bat in your home, it's a good idea to contact them because its bite can be hard to detect.

DNR officials also say if you live in area where you can kill a wild animal acting viciously, don't shoot it in the head.

The brain must be preserved to test for rabies.

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