There has not been a human rabies case in Georgia since 2000, though the possibility of contact with rabid animals increases during the warmer months.
The Georgia Department of Public Health District says many people receive post-exposure prophylaxis every year after encounters with rabid or potentially rabid animals. Post-exposure prophylaxis protects humans from developing rabies if they were exposed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the CDC each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.
The CDC says the rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). The CDC says death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.
There have been 121 positive cases of rabies in Georgia so far this year and forty-nine of those cases involved a human being. A person does not have to be bit to be exposed to rabies, they can be bit or scratched by an infected animal. Nine of the cases in Georgia this year were from domesticated animals. Health officials urge pet owners to be sure that their pets have been given the rabies vaccine.