Gilmer County Environmental Health officials have reported that five local residents were either exposed or potentially exposed to rabies in separate incidents on July 4th.
According to Andrea Martin, manager of Gilmer County Environmental Health, the first exposure took place mid-morning of the 4th as a couple in the Mountain Creek Hollow subdivision in Talking Rock, Georgia was attacked by a raccoon. The wife was bitten and scratched by the raccoon on her leg, and then as the husband fought off the animal, he was also scratched.
The couple immediately went to Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper to receive treatment while two of their neighbors searched for the raccoon in the subdivision.
Soon, the neighbors spotted the raccoon as it ran out of the garage of a nearby home after having attacked the homeowner, who then kicked the animal with his leg. One of the neighbors shot and killed the raccoon and turned it over to Martin on Monday.
“The Department of Natural Resources called to report the incident early Monday morning,”
“I immediately went to pick up the raccoon to prepare it for shipment to the state public health lab for rabies testing.”
Later on Monday, another incident was reported to Martin that had also happened on July 4th and involved a bat in the Coosawattee River Resort community.
“A resident was on his front porch early that evening when he spotted the bat in a recessed lighting fixture. He first tried to shoo the bat away with a broom, but when it didn’t budge, his adult son, who was visiting the home that day, turned on the light and the bat flew out and around to the back of the house.”
Later that night, the wife who lives in the home went through doors leading to the back porch from a guest room that remains closed to the rest of the house. When entering back inside the room, she saw a dead bat on the floor.
“It is believed this was the same bat that had earlier flown from the front porch to the back of the house and had died while clinging to the doors leading to the back porch from that guestroom,”
“Then, when the wife opened the doors, it fell inside without her noticing it until she walked back into the room. The husband, using very protective precautions, picked up the dead bat and brought it to me on Monday.”
Martin sent both specimens to the Georgia Public Health State Laboratory for testing Monday afternoon and the results confirming rabies in both animals were reported back to Martin late Tuesday afternoon.
The three Talking Rock residents are currently undergoing post-exposure rabies treatment.
The Coosawattee River Resort couple will start treatment soon.
“We don’t really believe there was an exposure in that case,”
“However, as a precaution, especially since we don’t know for certain whether the bat that tested positive for rabies had been in contact with anyone in the home, we have recommended that the couple receive treatment and that their cat receive a rabies booster shot and six months at-home quarantined observation. The quarantine will be closely monitored by health officials.”
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 animal
· Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies
Additionally, make sure all pets are kept current on rabies vaccinations.
For more information about rabies and its prevention, contact the local county environmental health office or log on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/features/rabiessafefamily.