Rabid coyote found dead

LAWRENCEVILLE - A rabid coyote was found on the Lawrenceville campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, officials said Wednesday.

The dead animal - believed to be the first known Gwinnett case of rabies in a coyote - was discovered at the Webb Ginn House Road acreage Tuesday, CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said, and the next day tests confirmed it had the rabies virus.

"The fact of the matter is we are seeing more and more wild animals in suburban Georgia, and we simply want people to know that there are wild animals out there and some of them carry rabies," Skinner said.

Both CDC and Gwinnett County Animal Control officials said they have not heard reports of a surge in rabies in animals in the community, and health officials said there has not been a reported case of rabies in humans.

But Melissa Gates, who lives in a subdivision across the street from the CDC campus, said she will be sure to keep her pets close.

"That's unbelievable. ... It's good to know because I have outside cats," Gates said. "Over here we do have a lot of wild animals. I guess we're just encroaching in on their territory."

Gates planned to keep her cats inside Wednesday night, but residents in Norcross have been wondering for days what to do about coyotes in their community.

On Tuesday, before the news of the rabid coyote broke, a Norcross neighborhood association talked about recent sightings in the city, but officials have decided to educate people instead of attempting to trap the animals.

"It would give a false sense of security," City Administrator Warren Hutmacher said of any attempts to control the population, adding that other animals or pets could be caught in traps. "The coyote population is here to stay. ... The question is how we are going to interact with them, not how we can eliminate them."

Hutmacher said he's not surprised to hear of a rabid coyote, but the news will not change the city's policy.

Information about the scavengers has been posted on the city Web site, including tips on limiting contact with the animals, such as removing dog, cat and bird food from near homes and eliminating water sources.

The CDC is also working on an education initiative.

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal should immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical treatment. Skinner said a series of five vaccinations can prevent someone who has been exposed to the virus from developing the disease, but the treatment must be administered as soon as possible.

Animal Control Officer Thomas Stephens, who said the CDC coyote may be the first known rabid coyote in Gwinnett, said pets should be OK if their rabies' vaccine is up to date.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing inflammation and ultimately death, according to the CDC. Early symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache, and general tiredness. As the disease progresses, people may experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

Preliminary laboratory analysis suggested that the type of rabies virus found in the coyote was a variant associated with raccoons, according to a press release.

The incident has been reported to the Georgia Division of Public Health, the release said.

For more information visit www.cdc.gov.