RABIES ALERT: Fox tests positive for rabies after biting cat on Bartley Road

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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According to the Troup County Environmental Health Office of District 4 Public Health, the Georgia Public Health Laboratory has confirmed a fox has tested positive for rabies after biting a cat on Bartley Road.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals that is most often spread through the bite of an animal that is infected with the disease. Rabies infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy (a disease of the brain) and death. Early symptoms of the disease include fever and headache.

As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, a slight or partial paralysis, hypersalivation and/or difficulty swallowing.

All residents are encouraged to take precautions to protect their families and pets against rabies by learning the signs of rabies and vaccinating pets.

“If you notice a wild or nocturnal animal moving about in the daytime and the animal appears to show no fear of people or the animal seems to behave in a sick or abnormal way, the animal may be infected with rabies,” said Melinda Knight, District 4 Public Health’s environmental health director. “People should avoid animals acting out of character and report it to animal control or their local environmental health office.”

Treatment and prevention practices for rabies have proven to be almost 100 percent effective when initiated promptly. Please report any bite, scratch or other contact with a wild animal to your local environmental health office.

Chief Troup County Marshal Jorge Olmo Novoa said they responded to the call and as they arrived on the scene they found that the fox had been shot but did not bite anyone before it was killed.

“This was the first rabies call we’ve had this year but should anyone comes across an animal they suspect to have rabies they should call us or the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) first,” Olmo Novoa said.

“Don’t mess with them, don’t try to catch them, or try to kill it because if people kill it and destroy the head, we can’t test them. When we catch an animal like that, we have to euthanize them and send it to get tested. It’s a pretty lengthy process and very dangerous because if any fluids from the animal gets into an open cut you may or may not know about, you get rabies. So, leave it alone and give us or DNR a call, and we’ll try to be out there as soon as possible to help.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of rabies cases reported annually occur in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

“Spring mating season has passed, for the most part, and now is the time of year when animals are out looking for food for their young and teaching their littles ones the ‘ways of the wild,’ such as learning to hunt for food on their own,” said Natalie Shelton, public information officer for District 4 Public Health. “If your pet isn’t up to date on getting a rabies vaccine, now’s the time to get it done, and also to make sure you and your pets keep a healthy distance from wild animals.”

Georgia law requires owned dogs, cats, and ferrets to have a rabies vaccination from a licensed veterinarian.

“Keeping up with the required state rabies vaccination law also keeps your pet safe in the event it bites a person,” Knight said. “If your pet bites a human, and you cannot prove its rabies vaccine is current, the law may require a 10-day quarantine for your pet, or even euthanasia so its brain tissue can be examined for signs of rabies.

For more information about rabies, visit the Georgia Division of Public Health at dph.georgia.gov/rabies or the CDC at cdc.gov/rabies. You may also contact the Troup County Environmental Health Office at (706) 298-3702.