Rabies can spread to people or pets through bites or scratches. Foxes, raccoons and other wild animals can carry it. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and, if untreated, is nearly always fatal in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache, general weakness and discomfort.
People who have been bitten or scratched by stray animals are urged to seek medical care immediately and tell the provider of the possibility of rabies exposure, then contact the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260 and ask for the epidemiologist on call.
To report the animal and have it picked up, call the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Bite Office at 770-339-3200, extension 5576. After business hours, contact the police non-emergency dispatch line at 770-513-5700.
Pet owners should ensure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are current. Unvaccinated dogs and cats exposed to rabid animals must be quarantined for four months and vaccinated one month before being released, according to the National Association of State Health Veterinarians.
The county released tips for residents to protect themselves and their families from rabies:
- Make sure pets get regular rabies shots
- Keep pets on their home properties
- Do not leave trash or pet food outside where it can attract stray animals
- Report any animal acting unusually to Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement. Unusual behavior includes aggression, avoiding food and water, foaming at the mouth, having trouble moving or moving stiffly.
- Stay away from unknown animals, especially wildlife
- Stay away from sick, hurt or dead animals and do not move them or pick them up
- Do not keep wild animals as pets, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes or coyotes (this is also illegal)
- Teach children not to approach, tease or play with wild or strange animals