Positive rabies specimens prompt caution in Worth County

SYLVESTER—Worth County residents should remain vigilant against rabies, cautions Worth County Environmental Health Manager Laura Searcy. Two positive rabies specimens have been identified on opposite sides of the county in less than two weeks’ time, so now is not the time to let down your guard, she said.

“We encourage you to get and keep your pets — dogs, cats, and ferrets — current on their rabies vaccination to protect them against the rabies virus,” Searcy said. Rabies vaccinations are required by state law.

“Should one of your pets show signs of illness or changes in behavior, please have it evaluated by a vet immediately to determine if they are symptomatic of rabies,” she continued. The disease is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, and it is common in many South Georgia wild animals.

“Avoid strays and wild animals,” Searcy said. “If a wild animal comes onto your property and attacks you, your family, or your pet and you feel the need to kill the animal (keep in mind it is illegal to kill some kinds of animals), do not shoot or beat the animal in the head. The brain is the only part that can be tested for rabies. If the head or brain is damaged, the specimen cannot be tested, and we must assume the animal is positive.”

If residents kill or find dead animals in pet enclosures, they should store the specimen in a refrigerator as decomposed specimens cannot be tested.

Searcy stressed that the disease is fatal in pets if they are not vaccinated. Further there is no cure for humans who get it and no test for it for those who are bitten by suspect animals.

      “If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical attention first,” Searcy said. “Next, contact the health department at 229-777-2168 or Georgia Poison Control’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-222-1222 as soon as possible! We will advise you on your risks and options.”