Make Sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies, advises state health officials

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR

With the COVID-19 pandemic still at the forefront of the Department of Public Health, one area that normally gets a lot of attention this time of year has been put on the back burner – and that is the problem of rabies.

Rabies in wild and domestic animals is a problem all year round but is particularly prevalent in the warmer months when wild animals such as raccoon, fox, and skunk are more active.

District Two Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer says although the occurrence of rabies among humans has declined noticeably over the years, the disease continues among wild animals.

Encounters between wild animals and domestic pets, including some that involve people, do occur in our area so Palmer reminds pet owners and livestock owners to make sure their animals are protected.

“People should always avoid contact with unfamiliar dogs, cats, and wild animals. This includes feeding or attempting to help an animal that appears injured. Maintaining current rabies vaccinations for your pets and keeping them away from wild animals is the best way to protect them,” he said.

According to Palmer, cases of rabies in the 13-County District II area have been fairly consistent but he said a recent case involving a rabid cat prompted the reminder to make sure your pets are vaccinated.

Another reminder for everyone is that rabies can be transmitted from animals to humans and it is always fatal.

“Rabies is a viral infection transmitted in the saliva of infected mammals. The virus enters the central nervous system of the host causing an inflammation of the brain that is almost always fatal. The most common carriers of rabies in the United States are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and bats. Rabies in humans can be prevented by eliminating exposures to rabid animals or by providing exposed persons prompt medical treatment. Post-exposure rabies treatment includes a series of vaccine injections. The treatment can be costly; however, it is extremely important because rabies is almost always fatal without it,” Palmer explained.

The post-exposure vaccine can be found at all the major hospitals within District 2 and information about vaccine assistance programs can be obtained from your local Environmental Health Office.

Normally, in the spring local health departments conduct low-cost rabies clinics and in Franklin County, the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter holds a rabies clinic every April.

However, the COVID crisis put a stop to the rabies clinics because of the social distancing issues.  Still, local veterinarians are able to vaccinate your pets.

WLHR News contacted both the Franklin and Hart County Environmental Health offices to get information on whether they planned to hold a rabies clinic this summer.

We also wanted to get an update on the number of rabies cases in each county, but we have not heard back from either health department office.