A St. Simons Island woman is seeking treatment for rabies after being bitten and scratched Sunday during a run-in with a raccoon, according to the Glynn County Health Department.
The raccoon remains at large, but its actions indicated it was infected with the potentially deadly virus, according to health department officials. The encounter occurred in the driveway of a residence in the Island Club, a neighborhood off of Kings Way.
It marked the second encounter in Glynn County this year between humans and rabid animals. In May, three people were advised to seek medical treatment after coming in contact with a rabid feral cat in the Wavely Pines neighborhood in central Glynn County. In that case, the cat was captured and tested positive for rabies.
Although only two cases have been reported in the county this year, the warmer summer weather increases the likelihood of encounters between humans and rabid animals, said Sally Silbermann, spokeswoman for the Coastal Health District, which oversees the local health department. The most recent case serves as a reminder that folks should take care to avoid contact with wild animals and to instruct their children to do likewise, she said.
“With the warmer weather, people are spending more time outside,” Silbermann said. “With more people out and about, the chances of coming in contact with a wild animal are going to increase, and that increases the chances of coming in contact with a rabid animal.”
Many wild animal species in this area are known to carry the rabies virus, including raccoons, foxes and bats. The virus is spread by contact with infected animals, and can be spread to family pets.
Ensuring that pets are vaccinated is an essential step in preventing rabies, Silbermann said. Dogs and cats should be vaccinated by the time they are 4 months old. Booster shots are needed a year later, followed by annual vaccinations.
Folks also should avoid the temptation to handle or feed wild animals. Likewise, garbage cans should be properly secured and pet food should not be left outside to attract wild animals.
Do not take on wild animals as pets or otherwise permit them in your homes. Leave the nursing of sick or injured wild animals to licensed rescue folks, Silbermann advises. Children should be taught to avoid contact with wild animals, or even unfamiliar domesticated pets.
“It’s really important that parents talk to their kids about not approaching animals that they are not familiar with,” Silbermann said. “Even animals that may appear friendly.”
Signs that an animal has rabies include behavioral changes, aggression, biting, foaming at the mouth and fearless stands against natural enemies.
For more information, contact the county health department at 912-264-3961.