UPDATE: Twelve people in North Georgia are being treated for potential rabies exposure. In the past two weeks, two puppies and a kitten have tested positive for the deadly disease. 

One of the puppies was in Whitfield County, the other in Gilmer County, and the kitten was in Cherokee County. 

North Georgia Health District officials are warning area residents about the dangers of the virus.

The two puppies and kitten were family pets, and all three were too young to receive the rabies vaccinations. 

Health officials say most cases of rabies are seen in wild animals but humans can also catch the deadly virus.

"It may start with a headache, stiff neck, nausea, progress to shaking, to inability to swallow, to comatose, to death," says Raymond King, director of the North Georgia Health District.

It's why health officials in North Georgia are taking the recent rabies outbreak very seriously.

"If a human begins to develop rabies symptoms, essentially, you are dead," King says. "There is no treatment for it from that point on.

In two weeks, a dozen people have gone through post exposure treatments. It's a two-step process to protect humans from rabies exposure.

READ MORE | Puppy tests positive for rabies in Whitfield County 

"What it does is give you is temporary immunity and your own active immunity against rabies, before you begin to develop symptoms,  and it's 100% effective if given in time." 

King says three pets were infected by wild animals. 

"The kitten had a paralyzed jaw, was salivating, disoriented," King says. "The puppies, same thing; not acting normal, running in circles, salivating."

He says each of the cases are unrelated and a coincidence, but wants to remind people to vaccinate their pets, and keep a close eye on wild animals. 

"If a raccoon or skunk comes up to your yard and acting strange, or sick, or tries to bite your animals or you, there's a pretty good chance it's rabies," says King.

The two puppies and kitten had to be put down because of rabies. 

If you suspect an animal in your area has the virus, contact your animal control office for assistance or click here for more information. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Twelve people are receiving post-exposure rabies treatment due to contact with domestic animals that have tested positive for rabies. 

In the past two weeks, two puppies and a kitten have been confirmed by the Georgia Public Health Laboratory as having rabies. 

North Georgia Health District says all three pets were too young to receive rabies vaccinations. One of the puppies was in Whitfield County and the other in Gilmer. The kitten was in Cherokee County. 

Officials say in each case, the pet was attacked by a rabid wild animal and bitten in the head, but it was not reported to vets or health authorities until rabies symptoms developed in the pet. 

The time between being bitten by the wild animal and onset of rabies symptoms was very short because the head bites were close to the brain. The rabies virus only travels through the nervous system to the brain, not through blood or other organs. The closer a bite is from the brain, the shorter time it takes to reach the brain. 

Wild animals that transmitted rabies to the puppies and kitten were a skunk, a raccoon and, possibly, a coyote. 

You are encouraged to keep children away from wild animals, strays, and unvaccinated pets that may have been in contact with wild animals. 

Contact the local Environmental Health Office for questions about rabies or to report an incident that may involve rabies. Contact information for Environmental Health offices in the North Georgia Health District is available at www.nghd.org. Questions and reports may also be directed to the North Georgia Health District Environmental Health office in Dalton, Georgia by calling (706) 529-5757, extension 1161.