Rabies in the Wiregrass

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A Geneva County man says that he is disappointed that it took health officials three days to notify him that he had come in contact with a rabid animal.

He says he had no clue about a rabies case in his neighborhood. But health department officials in the Wiregrass say they do their best to notify the public of rabies cases.

"Well the dog was barking out here at around 12 noon; my wife said something is eating that dog. I came down and he was having a fight and that's when I saw a raccoon in there, in the pen," said David Stephens.

Stephens goes on to say that he shot that raccoon but before Houston County Health Department officials showed up to take it in to be tested for rabies, it scratched his arm.

He called the State Health Department the next day for the results, but was shocked, that it took three days for a Geneva County Health official to relay them to him.

"There is a protocol for the procedure, and we handled it; we were notified by the lab, and I was mortified by my office, and we handled it in a prudent manner and as fast as we could," John Hughs, Geneva Health Official.

Hughs is the only health official at the Geneva County Health Department, and he and other Wiregrass public health officials say they are doing their best to notify the public about rabies.

Doug Turnbull, Houston County Heath Official, said, "We first notify the victim whether it's a human or one of their pets; if the case is positive we then notify the news media."

Diagnosing a rabid animal can only be done by testing its brain tissue, meaning it would have to be euthanized.

As far as humans are concerned, rabies causes flu-like symptoms at first, but can progressively spread and become fatal.

"In the case of a raccoon that jumps the fence, attacks a dog, and runs away... we have them consult a physician as far as a veterinarian for the animal; if it attacks a human, we ask that they seek their physicians advice," said Turnbull.

Health officials say anyone who believes they were exposed to rabies, should tell their doctor, so that they can begin post exposure treatment.

The typical cost for a post exposure rabies vaccine ranges anywhere between $1500 to $300.

If treated early, rabies can be eradicated from a person's body before it claims their life.

The racon that scratched Mr Stephens was diagnosed with rabies, but since then, Mr. Stephens has been taking rabies shots, and says he feel fine.

If you think you have been exposed to a rabid animal, health department officials say you should first contact them and then immediately seek medical attention.

They say early treatment is the most precise way to prevent the disease from spreading.

An anti-rabies clinic will be held Saturday, May 13 from 8 until 11:30 a.m. Local vets will be available at several different locations in Houston County. Each vaccine costs $8.