A test has confirmed that a fox that recently attacked a Worth County resident had rabies, and Public Health officials are cautioning others in the area to be aware that the infection is in the wild animal population.
"It is not unusual to see positive rabies cases occasionally in Worth County, or elsewhere in the 14-county Southwest Health District," said Worth County Health Department Lead Environmental Health Specialist Laura Searcy. "Wild animals living in our area that are known to harbor the disease include raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, bobcats and coyotes."
When infected animals come into contact with strays or unvaccinated pets, they can pass the infection. If untreated in humans, rabies is nearly always fatal, Searcy said.
"We are concerned about people being exposed to the rabies virus through pets whose vaccinations are not up-to-date, through stray animals that have not been vaccinated and through wild animals, any of which could catch the infection and pass it along through their saliva," she said.
Humans should avoid wildlife that behave oddly, such as nocturnal animals being out during daylight hours or wild animals seeking human interaction. The best protection against rabies exposure is to vaccinate pets.
Anyone bitten by wild animals or strays should seek immediate medical attention and contact the Worth County Health Department and law enforcement, she said.
Georgia law requires dogs and cats three months old and older to be vaccinated against rabies. Pet ferrets should also receive rabies inoculations, as should susceptible livestock.
For more information about rabies, contact the Worth County Environmental Health office at 229-777-2168 or go on-line to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.