MILLER CO., GA (WALB) - Health officials are warning Miller County residents after a fox was confirmed to have rabies.
Environmental Health Specialist Stan Johnson with the Miller County Health Department is urging residents to take precautions around wild animals.
"Unfortunately, rabies is endemic, or widespread, in our wild animal population," said Johnson. "Along with raccoons and bats, the virus is also prevalent in skunks, foxes, bobcats and coyotes."
Several animals with rabies in Southwest Georgia have been reported to the Georgia Department of Health including bats in Colquitt County, a raccoon in Dougherty County and a dog in Worth County.
Johnson explained that when wildlife interacts with strays and unvaccinated pets, the rabies virus can be transmitted.
"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," Johnson said.
Johnson suggested that residents avoid wildlife that is behaving oddly.
"In the case of bats, here in Georgia, when our bat species bite humans, it is similar to being bitten by a mosquito," Johnson said. "You may not notice it. The general policy is that if you wake up in a room and there is a bat in the room with you, the recommendation is that you receive prophylaxis treatment."
Anyone who has been bitten by wild animals or strays should get immediate medical attention and get in touch with the county health department and law enforcement according to Johnson.
"You should not attempt to catch the animal yourself. The authorities will handle that so that it can be tested for rabies," explained Johnson. "The most heart-breaking conversations I have had is telling pet owners that they are going to have to euthanize their pets because of rabies. If that animal had just received its annual rabies vaccination, it would have been a happy ending instead of a tragedy."
Johnson says the best protection against rabies exposure is to vaccinate pets.
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, Johnson said.
For more information, contact the Miller County Health Department at (229) 758-3344.
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