UPDATE: A second skunk has tested positive for rabies in north Georgia.
A Whitfield County resident observed stray dogs interacting with a skunk on Boyles Mill Road in the northeast section of the county on Monday, December 12 and contacted officials the next day after seeing a media report about rabies in the area.
The resident was not close enough to the stray dogs to give officers a detailed description.
The Whitfield Animal Control responded to the call and found a dead skunk in about the same location.
Since the skunk almost certainly had contact with the stray dogs, it was shipped to the Georgia State Public Health Laboratory, which confirmed on Wednesday, December 14 that the skunk had rabies.
There was no human exposure to rabies reported in this incident.
Residents in the northern parts of Whitfield and Murray Counties are strongly advised to be aware of wild mammals behaving aggressively, appearing sick or otherwise behaving in an abnormal manner. Children should be taught to avoid stray dogs, cats and wild mammals.
Pet owners are encouraged to make sure their cats and dogs have currently vaccinations against rabies. When rabid wild animals come near a home, pets usually have first contact with them. So when pets are vaccinated against rabies, pet owners and their families are also better protected. Unvaccinated dogs or cats that have been bitten by a rabid animal are recommended to be destroyed or placed in very strict quarantine for six months.
Persons who own livestock in these areas should have farm animals with which they have close contact vaccinated against rabies and be aware that all livestock are susceptible to rabies. A cow in another part of north Georgia was recently found to have rabies resulting in anti-rabies treatments for several persons.
PREVIOUS STORY: Officials say a North Georgia man and his dog were attacked by a wild animal and his dog had to be euthanized as a result.
North Georgia Health District has issued a public health advisory for North Murray and Whitfield Counties. Deputies say there have been several incidents of wild skunks chasing people and their pets in the last few weeks and so far two skunks have tested positive for rabies.
"Foaming at the mouth, they'd be very aggressive, of course not worried about eating so they'll be like real dirty nasty," said David Hedden, Whitfield County Rabies Control Officer.
Rabies Control Officer David Hedden answered the call on Riverdale Road in Whitfield County.
"He said there was a skunk, it was chasing him and his dog around and it actually had latched on to the dogs face," said Hedden.
The skunk then turned on the man aggressively spraying, while trying to bite him around his ankles.
"It was pretty aggressive, this guy was an older gentleman about 79-years-old and it was actually pulling on his pants leg and pulling on his shoe strings and he didn't know what to think," said Hedden. "It actually scared him pretty bad, luckily he did not get bit."
The man shot it dead and it later tested positive for rabies. Sadly the injured dog had to be put down as a result. In neighboring Murray County, Chief Deputy Brian Ingle is also investigating aggressive skunk incidents.
"Actually did have a skunk that chased some people," said Chief Deputy Ingle.
He says a skunk tested positive for rabies off of River Road last week and they're awaiting results on a third skunk from Mantooth Road, which is likely positive.
Rabies is a deadly virus that can be transmitted to humans through the saliva of infected animals. Local animal clinics are now urging the public to get their pets vaccinated, they say cows and horses that have close human contact should get a shot too.
"All hoofed livestock are susceptible to rabies. Vaccinating whole herds of animals against rabies is not usually practical, but we recommend vaccination for livestock that have close human contact, such as show cows and all horses."-- North Georgia Health District.
"I wished everybody would take it seriously," said Hedden. " If you are bit, the shots are very expensive they can cost anywhere from $15-20,000 dollars."
Skunks normally avoid people and are mostly nocturnal. When skunks, raccoons and similar wild animals are visible during daylight hours, they may have rabies. Officials say rabid animals may be more aggressive like these skunks have been, or they may seem sick, disoriented and lethargic.
"Call 911 or your local animal control office and let then know, let us come out and see if we can locate the animal and of course pick it up and test it and go from there," said Ingle.
A bite is often fatal once symptoms appear. You should seek medical attention immediately, if you have been bitten by any domestic or wild animal.
To find out more about rabies and its prevention, contact the local county Environmental Health office or log onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.