FORSYTH COUNTY — The Georgia Department of Public Health recently detected the rabies virus among wildlife in Forsyth County near Lake Lanier. A raccoon in the area of Sweetwater Drive and Buford Dam Road tested positive for rabies.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District encourages anyone visiting recreation areas at Lake Lanier, and other Corps sites, to always exercise caution if there is an encounter with wildlife animals or unknown domestic pets.
Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in the skin, or onto mucous membranes, such as the eyes or mouth. 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. Wildlife remains the most likely potential source of infection for both humans and domestic animals in the United States since the most common carriers of Rabies are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and bats.
Rabies in humans can be prevented by eliminating exposures to rabid animals or by providing those exposed to the virus prompt medical treatment. Post-exposure rabies treatment includes a series of vaccine injections in the wound area. The treatment can be costly; however, it is extremely important because rabies is almost always fatal without it.
Post-exposure vaccines can be found at most major hospitals and information about vaccine assistance programs can be obtained from your local Environmental Health Office.
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 involved people, have increased recently. These incidents of exposure are common but can be prevented if residents take precautions to protect themselves and their pets.
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.
If you feed your pets outside, pick up any uneaten food so wild animals, including feral cats, will not be attracted to your property. Feral cats, unlike stray domesticated cats, are born in the wild and should be treated as wild animals. Do not attempt to capture or feed feral cats. Leave them and other wild animals alone.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has rigid regulations that prohibit the keeping of wild and wild/domestic hybrid animals as pets. Some animals identified by these regulations are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and bats.
If you observe an animal acting strangely, please avoid the animal and immediately contact the Lake Lanier Project Office: 770-945-9531.
You may also call Georgia Department of Natural Resources 24-hour Ranger Hotline: 1-800-241-4113.