ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Gilmer County couple learned today that a stray beagle that had been near their home tested positive for rabies; however, county environmental health officials determined neither the couple nor their pets had been exposed to the virus the dog carried.
“We’re constantly reminding the public to avoid contact with both stray and wild animals,” said Andrea Martin, Gilmer County environmental health manager. “If you don’t know the rabies vaccination status of an animal, you’re putting yourself at risk just by handling it. But in this case, we ascertained that the couple and their pets had not been licked, scratched or bitten by the dog.”
The couple, who lives alone in a residence near the intersection of Flat Branch and Weeks roads in Ellijay, noticed the beagle on their property on Nov. 25 and saw that it exhibited signs of illness, including lethargy and the inability to walk. They tried to tend to the animal but were concerned it could be rabies-infected, so they contacted the local veterinarian hospital.
The dog was prepared for rabies testing and the specimen was sent to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory on Nov. 29. The positive test result was reported to local officials on Dec. 1.
Martin urges anyone living near the intersection of Flat Branch and Weeks Roads, who think it is possible that they or their children could have been exposed to the beagle at any time since Nov.11, to call either the Gilmer County Environmental Health office at 706-635-6050 or the Georgia Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for a free rabies exposure consultation.
Anyone who may have lost the beagle should contact officials immediately to be evaluated for possible rabies exposure.
If there are pets in the area that have never been vaccinated or are not currently vaccinated against rabies, they should be vaccinated or given a booster vaccination right away.
“Rabies is nearly 100 percent fatal in humans,” warned Martin. “Once rabies symptoms are present, it is too late to treat the human victim for rabies. If, however, exposure is known, then rabies post-exposure vaccinations are given to prevent the onset of rabies, saving the person’s life.”