A rabid cat bit and scratched three people and a family dog in Forsyth County

A cat that later tested positive for rabies bit and scratched three people and a family dog in Forsyth County.

Officials are warning residents not to attempt to feed or rescue stray domesticated dogs and cats. If you have stray animals on your property call animal control. People should always avoid contact with unfamiliar dogs, cats, and wild animals.

Feral cats, unlike stray domesticated cats are born in the wild and should be treated as wild animals. Do not attempt to capture or feed feral cats, leave them alone. If you feed your pets outside, pick up any uneaten food so wild animals, including feral cats will not be attracted to your property.

Although the occurrence of rabies among humans has declined noticeably over the years, the disease continues among wild animals and is frequently transferred to domestic animals during an attack. Incidences of animal rabies in the area are common and residents should take precautions to protect themselves and their pets. Maintaining current rabies vaccinations for your pets and keeping them away from wild animals is the best way to protect them.

Rabies is transmitted only when the virus is introduced into bite wounds, open cuts in the skin, or onto mucous membranes, such as the eyes or mouth. The virus enters the central nervous system of the host causing an inflammation of the brain that is almost always fatal.

The most common carriers of rabies in the United States are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and bats. Human rabies is best prevented by reducing the risk of infection in domestic animals and limiting contact with wild animals. Exposure to rabies is treatable by prompt care to the wound and appropriate post-exposure medicines. Prompt medical attention is important, however, as rabies is almost always fatal without it.

Vaccination and animal control programs that started in the 1940s have practically eliminated the domestic dog as a reservoir of rabies; however, unvaccinated dogs may still spread the disease. The vaccination of all domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets coupled with the systematic removal of stray animals that may be exposed to rabid wildlife are the basic elements of a rabies control program.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has rigid regulations that prohibit the keeping of wild and wild/domestic hybrid animals as pets. Some animals identified by these regulations are raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and bats.

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