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South Health District

Report Animal Bites Immediately

While spring time brings sunshine and warm weather allowing people to be outside more often, it also means more animals are on the move. A rabid bat that many people in Valdosta were exposed to last week, served as a good reminder of why people should stay away from wild animals.

“Anytime a person is bitten by a wild or domesticated animal, they should immediately seek medical attention and report the bite to Lowndes County Animal Control or Lowndes County Health Department,” stated Kyle Coppage, Lowndes Environmental Manager. “Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten is very important to stop a possible rabies infection and prevent the disease.” Rabies is caused by a virus that animals and people can get through certain exposure to the saliva or nervous tissues from a rabid animal and is nearly always fatal without proper postexposure treatment.

If a person is bitten by a healthy dog, cat or ferret, the animal will need to be quarantined for monitoring for rabies for ten days. If your pet is bitten by another animal you should consult your veterinarian immediately and report the bite to Animal Control or the Health Department.

While domesticated animals are less likely to have rabies, pet owners should vaccinate all dogs, cats and ferrets. Valuable livestock, horses or any animal that has frequent contact with humans should also be vaccinated. Owners can further reduce the risk of rabies exposure by not letting their animals roam free.

“We encourage people to spay or neuter their pet because this reduces their tendency to roam and fight; therefore, reducing their chance of being exposed to rabies,” stated Coppage. “Rabies is 100% preventable. In most cases, preventing rabies is as simple as ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, and avoiding contact with wild animals.”

“If someone is bitten by a wild animal, such as a raccoon, skunk, fox or bat, which cannot be caught or killed for testing, the animal should be assumed rabid and the person should seek medical attention immediately,” Coppage continues. “Any mammal is subject to getting rabies; however, in South Georgia we mainly see cases in raccoons, foxes and bats.”

Although any mammal is subject to getting rabies, rodents, such as rats, squirrels, rabbits and hamsters, are almost never found to be infected and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a rabies risk and do not warrant rabies testing unless the animal is sick or behaving in an unusual manner. If bitten, clean the area well with soap and water, and contact your local health care provider.

Bats have extremely small teeth which may leave marks that are not easily seen; therefore, a person may not know they have been bitten. If the bat can be safely captured, it can be tested for rabies. There are situations in which rabies testing and medical advice should be sought even in the absence of an obvious bite wound:

  • Awakening to find a bat in the room.
  • Finding a bat in the room with an unattended child.
  • Having a bat physically brush against you.
  • Finding a bat near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person.

People can follow these tips to reduce the risk of exposure to rabies from wildlife:

  • If possible, don’t feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets.
  • Enjoy wild animals from afar – teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, even if they appear friendly.
  • If you see a wild animal acting strangely report it to Lowndes County Animal Control.
  • Bat-proof your home in the fall and winter.

For more information on rabies or to report a bite call Lowndes County Health Department at 229-245-2314. Information can also be found online at www.cdc.gov or dph.georgia.gov.

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