Raccoons Expose Gilmer County Dogs to Rabies in Separate Incidents
Two Unvaccinated Dogs Euthanized
Ellijay (GA) – Gilmer County Environmental Health officials have reported that three local dogs were recently exposed to rabies when they came into contact with infected raccoons in two separate incidents.
The first dog that was exposed was previously vaccinated for rabies, so it only required a booster shot and to be home-quarantined for 12 weeks. However, since there was no proof that the other two dogs had been vaccinated, the owner of those dogs chose to have them euthanized.
There was no human exposure in either incident.
According to Andrea Martin, manager of Gilmer County Environmental Health, the first exposure occurred in the afternoon of March 11 in the Big Creek Road/Scrougetown Road vicinity, when a Labrador retriever attacked and killed a raccoon. The owner of the dog took both the dog and the body of the raccoon to a local veterinarian, who gave the dog a rabies booster shot and reported the incident to Martin.
“The raccoon was shipped for rabies testing to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory on March 14th and the positive results were reported on March 16th,” said Martin. “I notified the owner of the results and it was agreed the dog should receive the booster shot and be quarantined under general home observation for 12 weeks. I will be checking on the dog and its health during this period; plus, I explained to the owner our home observation protocol and the signs and symptoms of rabies, which generally begin with behavior that is simply unusual for that particular animal.”*
The second incident took place in the afternoon of March 13 in the Blackberry Mountain Road area of east Gilmer County.
A raccoon ran into a residential yard where two mix-breed Labrador retrievers fought and killed the animal. The dogs’ owner contacted Gilmer County Environmental Health on March 14, and the raccoon was shipped to the state public health lab later that day. The positive results for rabies were reported on March 16, and the two dogs were euthanized that afternoon.
“It’s heartbreaking when an owner has to make that tough decision,” said Martin. “That is why we constantly urge residents to keep rabies vaccinations current in their pets.”
Additionally, health officials advise residents to be wary of unfamiliar animals, wild or tame, that exhibit unusual behavior and report them to animal control or the county environmental health office.
The public is also urged to report to them any attacks or bites by a stray or wild animal.
If bitten, individuals are advised to thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water, and seek immediate medical attention. If a pet is bitten, the owner should seek veterinary assistance for the animal right away. The health care provider and/or the veterinarian will need to know the following to assess the risk of rabies exposure:
- The geographic location of the incident
- The type of animal that was involved
- How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
- The vaccination status of the animal (if known)
- Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies
For more information about rabies and its prevention, contact the local county environmental health office. In Gilmer County, the phone number is (706) 635-6050. Information is also available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at *www.cdc.gov/rabies.