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Taking cold comfort from Hotlanta
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It's hot, darn hot, about 13 degrees warmer than average, and supposed to top out at a searing 97 degrees today in Newton County.

It's three weeks until the summer solstice and yet it already feels like late July.

There's some respite to be had in the hour just after dawn in the cool air that sinks into the woods on the trail behind Oxford College, but it's short-lived.

You definitely don't want to stop back there, or you risk being eaten alive.

The bug population has increased exponentially in the past few weeks. Biting flies and mosquitoes are out in force in the still air of morning.

Bugs and heat: Two reasons why summer is not exactly my favorite season.

But let me introduce Tharon's law of relativity here. Summer in Newton County should be relatively pleasurable compared with the sweltering summers to be found further south.

There are two things missing here that make life more bearable as the temperature rises: Gnats and oppressive humidity.

We're fortunate in that there seems to be some self-imposed barrier south of Macon that keeps gnats away, and humidity most days lies along the Coastal Plain instead of venturing north of the Fall Line into Newton County.
We're also well north of the Sandhills that lie along the Fall Line in Middle Georgia. The Sandhills are notoriously hot in summer, several degrees warmer than you'll find locally.

I can take this heat: I've lived in a sauna (Thomasville, Ga.), and I've lived in an oven (Augusta) where the air conditioner is switched on in mid-April and doesn't go off until late October.

This heat is nothing in comparison. We've run the air conditioner only a handful of times before last week.
But it is indeed relative, a point brought home a few summers ago after a trip to the cool, dry Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado.

We flew back to Charlotte, a city with a climate similar to Atlanta's, late one July evening. We stepped out into the sweltering aftermath of a thundershower that to us felt like we were on the riverfront in Savannah on a still summer night, minus the rank smell of stale beer and river musk.

Any other evening, the cool air would have felt invigorating, but we were sweating as we were waiting for the parking lot shuttle.

We ran the air conditioner full blast on the drive home, and cranked it down to 70 in our house.
But after a day or so, we had adjusted back to the searing heat.

It's all relative, after all.

It's a time of year to get out and about, but be wary, because the critters are out in force, too.
This is the time of year when rabies cases arise. There's already been an alert issued just north of us in Gwinnett County, where a rabid fox bit two children in separate attacks near Lawrenceville in mid-May.

Rabies are common in Georgia, with 377 animals testing out as positive for the disease in 2010, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

There were 2,396 animals tested last year for rabies.
The most common threat to your cat or dog from the disease is through an infected wild animal.
Rabies occurs in foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats.
You don't need to worry about exposure to squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, rats and most other rodents, according to the Department of Community Health.

Bites from infected animals are the major concern, but rabies can also be transmitted through scratches that penetrate the skin and if you get saliva in your eye or other mucous membrane.

Protect yourself and your pet by making sure your dogs and cats are vaccinated.

Avoid contact with wildlife, especially animals behaving in a peculiar manner.

Report all animal bites to the local health department or animal control, and get treatment immediately for any bites or scratches.

Tharon Giddens is editor of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5011 or at