DALTON, GA (WRCB) -- Officials in North Georgia are warning residents about the increasing rabies problem and what to do to stay safe.
The North Georgia Health District confirms five cases of rabid animals in its district so far this spring. They say it's a problem that's spreading and people need to steer clear of wild animals.
But, what if the wild animal comes to you? They say it's important to know what to do next.
"I was concerned because I didn't know what to do. For two days, I had a live raccoon in my garage that I highly suspect was rabid," Dalton resident Susan Moore said.
Susan Moore recently found a sick raccoon hidden in a doghouse in her garage. "It was pretty frightening especially knowing this animal could bite somebody," Moore said.
She called animal control, but says they told her since it hadn't bitten anyone, they were too swamped to come out and investigate.
"We're doing the best we can. We'll get to you at times and at times we'll ask you to handle the situation," Whitfield County Rabies Officer Diane Franklin said.
Diane Franklin is Whitfield County's only rabies officer. She says her phone rings off the hook with reports of suspected rabid animals. "I'm not trained in wildlife management," she said.
Moore found the raccoon dead after a couple of days. Then she contacted the health department. They sent out the USDA to pick it up. Test results proved it was rabid.
"People are not generally knowledgeable about what to do," North Georgia Health District Environmental Director Ray King said.
Environmental Director Ray King says if you suspect a rabid animal on your property call 911, the health department and animal control. "You need to be on the lookout for animals with any kind of strange behavior," he said.
He says the USDA keeps count of rabid animals and drops bate from planes laced with the rabies vaccine in areas with the highest population. Until now, the drop zone has been in Whitfield County's west side.
"We're trying to move that zone eastward so it will include all of Whitfield County. Right now our numbers are coming back high so I'm hoping there's a good chance the drop zone moves east," Franklin said.
Officials say if you can kill the rabid animal on your own, do it from a safe distance with a trap or by shooting it, but not in the head. They need the brain to be intact to test it for rabies.
They say to avoid getting the disease, vaccinate your pets and if you're bitten, scrub the wound thoroughly and go to the doctor for a series of shots.