Three people were bitten by rabid wild animals in separate Rockdale incidents in the past couple of weeks, according to the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office, which is warning residents to stay alert for a possible rabies outbreak.
Neighboring Henry County is seeing a rabies outbreak as well, with 10 recent cases, according to the animal control director there. One neighborhood in Henry County's center was placed under an informal quarantine last week due to rabid animals.
The Rockdale cases involved foxes and a raccoon. Two fox-bite cases happened on St. George Place in Conyers, near Sigman Road and 138, and in the Pembroke subdivision off Ga. Hwy. 212 on the south side. The raccoon-bite case happened on Saxony Drive on the south side.
The south side fox-bite victim was a child who was bitten while outside in her backyard, according to a RCSO report. The fox reportedly came up to the child and bit her on her hand. Authorities captured the fox and tested it for rabies.
In the Saxony Drive case, a RCSO deputy killed the raccoon with a shotgun after it was seen acting strangely near children. According to a RCSO report, the raccoon "appeared to be very sick and had mucous coming from his eyes." The animal was "hunched up and scouring around and be[ing] very aggressive in nature," the report continues. The deputy shot it once, and after it continued to "scour around" the deputy shot the animal again.
According to RCSO, the county's Animal Care and Control Department has reports of other possibly rabid animals, but due to expense, animals are only killed and tested if they bite someone.
Earlier in the month, another fox attacked a resident on Flat Shoals Road near the Fieldstone subdivision on June 9. Rabies testing, which is done using fluid around the brain, was unable to be carried out due to damage to the animal's brain.
A resident also reported another fox attack at the same address on May 30, but testing was not performed on the animal because there was reportedly no break in the resident's skin.
Last year, Rockdale county reported three racoons and one fox that tested positive; the fox bit a human, the rest came into contact with dogs. In 2012, four racoons tested positive after coming into contact with dogs.
The scale of the current outbreak in Henry County is unusual, said Gerri Yoder, the director of that county's Animal Care and Control Department.
"I can't tell you the last time we had 10 rabies cases," she said, adding that another animal, a fox, was being tested today. None of those cases have been close to the Rockdale line, she said.
However, "It's not a cause for panic," Yoder said, just for extra awareness.
In neighboring Newton County, animal control officials report two confirmed cases, a relatively low number. Both were skunks - one in January and one in March.
Rabies is a viral disease that is almost always fatal if untreated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected animals can transmit the disease to humans and other animals through their saliva when they bite. However, rabies is preventable if a bite victim is vaccinated soon after exposure.
Any mammal can carry rabies, but it is mostly commonly found in wild foxes, raccoons, skunks, bats and coyotes, according to the CDC. Rabid animals may attack humans for no apparent reason.
If you see an animal acting strangely or aggressively, keep away from it and retreat to a safe place, then call 911 so that deputies and Animal Control can deal with it. Anyone who is bitten by an animal should seek immediate medical attention. Owners of dogs and cats should make sure their pets are vaccinated against rabies.
Yoder noted that it is not unusual for a wild animal to be out in the daytime or to be near houses. Authorities should be called only if it is behaving in an obviously disoriented or sick manner, or if it seems unusually tame or aggressive.
For more information about rabies, see cdc.gov/rabies
Michelle Kim, Kayla Robins contributed to this article.