Dalton, GA – According to Whitfield County Environmental Health Manager Chad Mulkey, a woman residing near a forested area in southeast Whitfield County reported on Friday, April 8th that two of her dogs killed a skunk as it ate dog food in their pen.
The incident occurred in the Tilton Road, SE and Nance Springs Drive, SE area.
Mulkey instructed the woman on how to refrigerate the skunk over the weekend until he could ship it for rabies testing.
The head was shipped to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory on Monday the 11th and the positive test results were returned late in the day on Tuesday, April 12th.
The dog owner was informed of the results the following morning. Because the dogs had immediately licked her hands where there were open scratches, Mulkey advised her to speak with her personal physician and the Georgia Poison Control Center to determine if preventive post-exposure rabies treatment would be advisable. Generally, this kind of secondary contact through pets is not considered human rabies exposure, buteach case must be considered individually and is a decision between the person and their physician with recommendations from public health.
Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans. Rabies can affect both domestic and wild mammals. It is spread to people and among mammal species through direct bites or scratches from the infected animal.
The dogs involved in this case were previously vaccinated against rabies at least twice prior to this incident, so they will only need a booster shot and close observation.
Health officials urge residents to be wary of any unfamiliar animals, both domestic and wild, and to maintain rabies vaccinations in their pets.
For more information about rabies and its prevention, log onto www.cdc.gov/rabies.