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County issues third rabies alert of year

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

BRASELTON — Officials have issued Gwinnett’s third rabies alert of 2011 after an infected raccoon turned up in Braselton, but an animal control leader says the threat is no greater than in other years.

The raccoon, found April 4 on Northern Oak Drive, tested positive for rabies at a state laboratory, prompting the most recent alert. Similar warnings were sounded when a rabid cat turned up in February near Buford Highway in Suwanee; the second case involved a bat with rabies in Lawrenceville in March.

Lt. Mary Lou Respess, Gwinnett Animal Shelter manager, said the heightened rabies awareness has resulted from alerts her agency now issues via Gwinnett County’s communication system.

“I don’t believe that there are more rabid animals, merely a better system for alerting the public,” Respess said.

Officials advise anyone who may have had contact with the raccoon — or any stray animals — to call the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Bite Office at 770-339-3200, ext. 5576.

While “pre-exposure” vaccinations are generally unnecessary for humans, Respess said anyone bitten by an animal should seek emergency care.

“All personal, domestic pets should be vaccinated annually ... through their veterinarian, to prevent unexpected risk, and as required by law,” she said.

A Lawrenceville family endured a series of vaccinations and pet quarantines after their cat brought the infected bat into their home in the March incident.

Animal control officials note that rabid animals usually display strange behavior, including but not limited to telltale foaming mouths. They may act aggressive, avoid food and water or have trouble moving, the agency says.