Hall County has had five confirmed rabies cases this year, a number slightly higher than some neighboring counties, but there are steps people can take to protect themselves and their pets.
Of the five cases in Hall this year, four have involved a raccoon and one involved a bat. Foxes can also have rabies, and a fox was found to be the cause of a case in Clermont in December.
Mike Ledford, the county’s animal services director, said that most of the animals that carry rabies are nocturnal, but if you see one out during the day, it could be a warning sign.
“If it’s midday in the heat of the day and they’re out running around and approaching people and approaching other animals, then that’s a telltale sign that something is not right with them,” he said.
Ledford recommends that people avoid approaching these wild animals.
“We don’t want citizens trying to approach anything that could be rabid. Make sure you tell us,” he said.
Hall County Animal Control can be reached at 770-531-6830 or 770-536-8812 after business hours.
Animal control officers can trap an animal believed to be rabid and send the animal to the Georgia Public Health Lab in Decatur, a state facility where the animal can be tested for rabies.
Ledford said that fortunately, the county doesn’t see too many cases of domesticated pets with rabies, but there are some signs pet owners can watch out for and may want to get checked out.
“Any kind of neurological problems — lethargic for no reason, walking in circles, just anything out of character for them, they need to get to their vet and get it looked at,” he said.
Ledford also recommended against leaving food outside at night.
“Taking up your pets’ food at night will keep wild animals from targeting that area to come and eat and get a free meal. … They don’t frequent it as much if they don’t know there’s food there,” he said.
Hall’s rabies numbers are higher than some neighboring counties. Hall has had five this year and had nine in 2018. Gwinnett County has had six so far this year and had five in 2018, according to county spokeswoman Heather Sawyer. Forsyth County has not had any cases this year and had three last year, according to Dave Palmer with the Georgia Department of Public Health. Jaclyn Fryman, director of Barrow County Animal Control, said Barrow has had one case this year and had one in 2018.
Pets can be vaccinated for rabies, and there are low-cost options in the area. The Hall County Animal Shelter offers vaccines for $10 Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1688 Barber Road in Gainesville. The Christian-David Healthy Pet Clinic at the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia offers one-year vaccines for $12 and three-year vaccines for $30. The Humane Society’s clinic is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 845 West Ridge Road in Gainesville.
Pets can also be vaccinated at their regular veterinarian.
“It just takes you a few minutes and can save you a whole lot of problems down the road,” Ledford said.