Striped skunkGilmer County Environmental Health officials announced today that the state laboratoryconfirmed rabies in a skunk that was picked up near Chatsworth Highway/52 West on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

According to Andrea Wheeler, Gilmer County Environmental Health Manager, "The skunk entered the pen of a single horse in the vicinity of Nine Mile Methodist Church, and the horse killed the skunk. We were notified of the incident that day, and we shipped the skunk for testing the next morning, Wednesday, March 11th. We received the positive rabies results from the state lab this morning."

Since the horse is unvaccinated for rabies, its owner has been informed it will need to be observed under a six-month quarantine. Environmental health will assess the horse's pen to determine if it meets the state quarantine mandates. The owner will also have the horse vaccinated for rabies.

There were no human exposures to the skunk.

Residents can help prevent the spread of rabies by making sure their pets and livestock are current on their vaccinations. They also need to avoid direct contact with unfamiliar animals and to be particularly cautious around animals that are exhibiting aberrant behaviors. For example, if a nocturnal animal is out during the day, the animal should be avoided.

Officials also recommend that residents have their pets spayed and neutered to help reduce the number of unwanted animals.

If a potentially rabid animal bites a person or pet, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek immediate medical attention. The health care provider and/or the veterinarian will need to know the following to assess the risk of rabies exposure:
  • The geographic location of the incident
  • The type of animal that was involved
  • How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked)
  • The vaccination status of animal
  • Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies
For more information about rabies, contact the Gilmer County Environmental Heath Department at (706) 635-6050, or log onto the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

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