With two animals – a kitten and puppy – recently testing positive for rabies in Cobb County, Cobb & Douglas Public Health is encouraging residents to take immediate steps to reduce contact with possibly infected animals, particularly during the summer months while people are spending more time outside.

Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through certain exposures to the saliva or nervous tissue from a rabid animal, and is nearly 100% fatal without proper care following exposure.

It is estimated that every year 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. residents are potentially exposed to rabies, requiring human rabies post-exposure anti-rabies vaccination. If the animal tests positive for rabies or cannot be found for quarantine or testing, a series of rabies vaccinations must be given to the exposed person to prevent the disease. The regimen consists of one dose of rabies immune globulin (RIG) and four doses of rabies vaccine over a 14-day period.

Between 2014 to July 2016, a total of eleven animals in Cobb County tested positive for rabies, including raccoons, bats, dogs, and cats.  In the U.S., raccoons are the most common animals found to be rabid, followed by skunks and bats.

Although the majority of rabies cases occur in wildlife, most humans are exposed to the virus as a result of an encounter with an infected domestic animal. Keeping pets, including cats and dogs, up-to-date on vaccinations, is the best way to help prevent rabies in humans and domestic animals.

Rabies Prevention Tips

  • All dogs, cats and ferrets should be vaccinated against rabies. Consider vaccinating valuable livestock and horses. Animals that have frequent contact with humans should be vaccinated.
  • Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free.
  • Spaying or neutering your pet may reduce any tendency they might have to roam or fight and thus reduce the chance that they will be exposed to rabies.
  • Don’t feed your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will also attract wild or stray animals.
  • Wild animals such as raccoons, bats, and foxes should not be kept as pets.
  • Enjoy all wild and unfamiliar animals from a distance and teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals – even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting aggressively, report it to city or county animal control officials.
  • Report all animal bites to your local animal control.

For more information, please visit http://dph.georgia.gov/rabies and http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/