Officials are reminding pet owners about the importance of vaccinations after Forsyth County’s first rabies case of 2013 was confirmed in a bat.
According to Ed Carter, Forsyth County environmental health manager, the bat tested positive for rabies at the Georgia Division of Public Health’s lab. It was found last week by two dogs in the back yard of an east Forsyth home.
The dogs, who later received a rabies booster shot and must be quarantined for 45 days, are “going to be fine,” said veterinarian Mike McLaughlin, who treated them at Animal Medical Center in Cumming.
“Rabies is out there,” McLaughlin said. “Hall County has an epidemic of rabies for years and it’s hard for me to believe that one county away has got an epidemic and Forsyth County doesn’t as well.
“But it’s just a warning to people that if your animals have not been vaccinated, you need to get them vaccinated. It’s the law in the state of Georgia that domestic animals be vaccinated for rabies. It’s not an option.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes rabies as a virus that infects the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and eventually death.
Rabies affects only mammals and is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, including raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.
David Palmer, District 2 Public Health spokesman, said the “best defense against rabies for pets is annual rabies vaccination.”
For people, Palmer urged caution when approaching wild or stray animals, particularly during the warmer months.
“They don’t’ act like they normally act,” he said. “Like an animal that’s not aggressive will become aggressive and wild animals that normally run off when humans are around, they kind of linger around and may attack domestic pets like cats or dogs.
“It’s best not to approach them because they can attack humans as well if they have rabies.”
Carter said the bat is the first confirmed case in Forsyth this year. In 2012, there were two cases, one each in a raccoon and fox.
According to Palmer, those are two of the most frequently infected animals, along with skunks and bats.
“Those are the ones you really want to watch out for,” he said. “If an [infected animal] gets into the house and a human has contact with it, the doctor may go ahead and prescribe rabies treatment because rabies is a deadly disease … left untreated, it usually results in death for humans that are bitten.”