Third ra­bies case con­firmed in Polk

Res­i­dents should take pre­cau­tions to pre­vent the po­ten­tially deadly dis­ease

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Staff re­ports

The news came in just be­fore the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­days, and this time those in the western edge of Cedar­town should be on alert about the po­ten­tial for the dis­ease cause harm to their pets or loved ones.

Polk County’s third con­firmed an­i­mal-ra­bies case this year, a rac­coon, had pub­lic health of­fi­cials last week cau­tion­ing res­i­dents once again the po­ten­tial dan­gers of the virus.

The de­part­ment urges pet own­ers to make sure their furry friends are vac­ci­nated against ra­bies, and ad­di­tion­ally warn res­i­dents in the densely pop­u­lated down­town area around E. Gi­rard Av­enue, North Main Street, and in the sub­ur­ban res­i­den­tial area around Prior Sta­tion Road, where the cases have been found to be es­pe­cially ob­ser­vant and cau­tious.

“You can´t tell if an an­i­mal has ra­bies by just look­ing at it. A clue, though, is if the an­i­mal is act­ing strangely, says the Polk County Health De­part­ment’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Man­ager Kathy Couey-Miller. “The best thing to do is to never feed or ap­proach a wild an­i­mal. Be care­ful of pets that you do not know. If you see a stray dog or cat, don´t pet it, and if any an­i­mal is act­ing strangely, call your lo­cal an­i­mal con­trol of­fi­cer for help.”

Polk’s first 2018 ra­bies case, a rac­coon, was con­firmed back in March.

An­other case, also a rac­coon, was con­firmed in Septem­ber. Polk County had three an­i­mal ra­bies cases in 2017, all of which were rac­coons, and nine cases in 2016 – eight rac­coons and a bat.

Of­fi­cials em­pha­size an­i­mal ra­bies can be found through­out Polk County.

“Ra­bies is reg­u­larly found in Polk County and is al­ways cir­cu­lat­ing in our wild an­i­mal pop­u­la­tion,” says Couey-Miller.

She cau­tions res­i­dents to avoid wild, stray, and pos­si­bly un­vac­ci­nated an­i­mals that may be in­fected with ra­bies and em­pha­sizes res­i­dents should take ad­di­tional pre­cau­tions to pro­tect them­selves, their fam­i­lies, and their pets. “Get­ting your pet vac­ci­nated against ra­bies is the sin­gle best way to pro­tect your fam­ily from ra­bies,” CoueyMiller says. “It’s im­por­tant to do it for their pro­tec­tion, for our pro­tec­tion, and be­cause it’s state law.”

“Re­duc­ing the risk of ra­bies in do­mes­tic an­i­mals and lim­it­ing hu­man con­tact with wild an­i­mals are two mea­sures cen­tral to the pre­ven­tion of hu­man ra­bies,” ex­plains Couey-Miller. Other ef­fec­tive pre­cau­tions against ra­bies in­clude:

Vac­ci­nate all dogs, cats and fer­rets against ra­bies. Check with your vet­eri­nar­ian to make sure your pets have up-to-date pro­tec­tion against ra­bies. Re­mem­ber that the vac­ci­na­tion of pets against ra­bies pro­tects not only the pets, but more im­por­tantly, pro­tects peo­ple.

Don’t leave pet food out where wild an­i­mals can ac­cess it. Leav­ing pet food out is a sure way of get­ting wild an­i­mals to visit your home en­dan­ger­ing you, your fam­ily and your pets.

Re­mind chil­dren to avoid an­i­mals they don’t rec­og­nize, es­pe­cially

stray or wild an­i­mals. These an­i­mals may be in­fected with ra­bies.

Small chil­dren should not be left unat­tended with dogs, even if the dog is a pet or the child is fa­mil­iar with it.

Keep pets at home. Obey any county laws re­quir­ing that dogs be re­strained to the owner’s prop­erty. Pets that are kept close to home are less likely to en­counter a ra­bid an­i­mal.

Re­port any rac­coon, fox, bat or skunk that is out dur­ing the day in a res­i­den­tial area or that is be­hav­ing strangely to the lo­cal Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Game and Fish Di­vi­sion of­fice at 1-800-241-4113.

Re­port stray dogs and cats and ag­gres­sive or sick­ap­pear­ing an­i­mals to the lo­cal an­i­mal-con­trol of­fice.

Don’t at­tempt to as­sist in­jured or sick an­i­mals with­out pro­fes­sional help. Even an­i­mals which would never bite oth­er­wise can bite when sick or in pain.

Bats found in sleep­ing quar­ters should be cap­tured and tested for ra­bies even when there is no ev­i­dence of a bite wound or con­tact with the sleep­ing in­di­vid­u­als.

Af­ter-hours calls in­volv­ing ag­gres­sive an­i­mals should be di­rected to 911.

Af­ter-hours calls in­volv­ing an­i­mal bites and their po­ten­tial for ra­bies ex­po­sure should be di­rected to 866-PUBHLTH (866-782-4584).

Polk County res­i­dents can con­tact the Polk County Health De­part­ment’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Of­fice in Cedar­town at 770-749-2253 for ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion or with any ques­tions or con­cerns.

Res­i­dents can also visit the North­west Ge­or­gia Pub­lic Health web­site at https:// nwga­pub­lichealth.org/en­vi­ron­men­tal-health/ra­bies for in­for­ma­tion on an­i­mal ra­bies and ra­bies pre­cau­tions. Res­i­dents can also visit http:// www.cdc.gov/ra­bies/ for com­pre­hen­sive ra­bies in­for­ma­tion.

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