Gwinnett County officials are warning residents to be careful, particularly in the Dacula area, after a fox that attacked two kids tested positive for rabies last week.

The children were attacked in the area around Dolostone Way and Austin Crossing on May 19 and Gwinnett Animal Welfare and Enforcement captured the fox that same day. It tested positive for rabies later in the week.

“Foxes, raccoons and other wild animals carry diseases like rabies that can spread to people and pets through a bite or scratch,” animal welfare officials said.

In light of the attack and the positive rabies test, county officials are encouraging residents to be careful around animals that are behaving unusually.

Pet owners are urged to make sure their pets rabies vaccination is up-to-date because unvaccinated dogs and cats who have been exposed to an animal that has rabies would have to be quarantined for four months. A dog or cat that has been vaccinated would only have to be quarantined for one month after exposure.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rabies virus attacks the central nervous system and is almost always fatal in humans if untreated,” Gwinnett County animal welfare officials said. “Early symptoms of rabies in people include fever, headache and general weakness or discomfort.”

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a stray animal, or an animal that is acting in an unusual way, must get preventive treatment, county officials said. They must seek immediate medical care, letting their doctor know they were exposed. They must then call and speak with an epidemiologist at the Gwinnett County Health Department at 770-339-4260.

In addition to speaking with health officials, people who have been in contact with an animal suspected of having rabies should call the Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement Bite Office at 770-339-3200 ext. 5576. They can call animal welfare/s Dispatch Non-Emergency line at 770-513-5700 after hours as well.

County officials offered the following suggested tips for residents to help them protect themselves from rabies:

♦ Make sure your pets get their rabies shots regularly

♦ Keep your pets on your property

♦ Do not leave garbage or pet food outside. Food left out may attract wild or stray animals

♦ Rabid animals may act tame. They may also display strange or unusual behavior. They may act aggressive, avoid food and water, foam at the mouth, have trouble moving or move in a stiff, odd way. Stay away from any unknown animals, especially wildlife. Report any animal acting unusual to Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement.

♦ Stay away from wild, sick, hurt or dead animals. Do not pick up or move sick or hurt animals.

♦ Do not keep wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes as pets. It is dangerous and also illegal

♦ Teach your children not to go near, tease or play with wild animals or strange dogs and cats.

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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