Authorities are urging caution in the wake of Forsyth County’s first confirmed case of rabies since 2007.
A raccoon that attempted to bite a 55-year-old camper July 5 near a north Forsyth creek has tested positive for the virus, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. David Waters of the sheriff’s animal control unit warned residents against approaching wild or domestic animals.
“It’s not just wildlife,” he said. “It can be your own pets. If you let your pets out and they’re not monitored, that kind of thing, you would definitely want to watch” for rabies.
Waters said residents who live near Cantrell Road, where the incident occurred, have been notified of the incident by phone and in person.
The man was camping by a creek along Cantrell, which is off Jot Em Down Road near the Dawson County line, when he encountered the raccoon.
A sheriff's report said the man killed the animal and notified the sheriff’s office before taking it to veterinarian Lanier Orr, who had it tested.
Removing the brain and scanning the tissue is the only way to test for the virus, which attacks the nervous system and the brain.
Rabies is commonly carried in Georgia by raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, though it can be carried by any warm-blooded animal. It is transmitted through birth and body fluids, such as saliva or mucus.
Waters said anyone bitten by an animal should seek medical treatment immediately. Waiting for symptoms could be a fatal mistake.
Raccoons, Waters said, are the most common carriers of rabies.
If an animal acts suspiciously, such as being unsteady on its feet, foaming at the mouth or showing no fear of humans, it should be reported to the sheriff’s office.
“Especially with an already identified case," Waters said. "And if you live in that area, it would be wise to give us a call.”
According to state law, vaccinated pets that have been bitten by another animal must be quarantined for 10 days by their owner or a veteriarian.
If they show no signs of the disease in that time, they may be released.
Wild animals are euthanized and tested immediately.
While it is the first local case since 2007, neighboring Hall County has had at least 12 this year.
In 2008, Hall set a record with 43 confirmed cases of rabies. That total also was the most in the state for the year.
Officials have speculated that the surge could likely be attributed, at least in part, to growth in once rural areas.