Donkey bite prompts rabies warning

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Since the first of the year, the Decatur County Health Department is investigating two positive cases of rabies, including one highly unusual infection of a donkey, said Decatur County Health Department Environmental Health Specialist Ansley Johnson.

“We know rabies is in the wild animal population, so we are not surprised to see positive cases now and then,” Johnson said. “All mammals are vulnerable to rabies, including horses, goats and cattle. But generally when we see exposures in domestic animals they are in pet dogs and cats. This is the first time we’ve seen a donkey with rabies in the district.”

The other animal that tested positive for rabies was a raccoon. Raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, coyotes and bobcats are among the common rabies carriers in Georgia.

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On Saturday, Jan. 8, a Decatur County man reported his donkey bit his hand while he was attempting to feed the animal, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report.

The victim told the responding deputy that later in the day, he had found the donkey lying on the ground and unable to stand. The victim then shot the donkey and buried him. The victim said he became concerned because the donkey had been slobbering and acting vicious for several days, leading him to file a bite report with the Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson said vaccinating pets and livestock and avoiding contact with wild animals are the best ways to avoid exposure to the disease.

“Rather than alarming us, these cases should serve as a reminder of the importance of having pets vaccinated against rabies and making sure that their vaccinations are up to date,” Johnson said.

Rabies has been proven to be almost 100 percent preventable when prompt action is taken, he said.

“It is important to report any scratch, bite or contact with a wild or stray animal to environmental health specialists at the health department. Untreated, rabies is fatal,” Johnson said. “Pet owners can save a lot of heartache if they make sure their dogs and cats are protected. Dogs and cats three months old and older should be vaccinated against rabies.”

Pet ferrets should also receive rabies vaccinations, as should valuable livestock. Pets with current vaccinations that are exposed to rabid animals are given booster shots and placed under observation for 45 days.

The disease is transmitted mainly through bite wounds from an infected animal. On rare occasions, rabies may be transmitted through fresh open cuts in the skin or by passing through mucous membranes such as the eyes, mouth or nose from the saliva of an infected animal, Johnson said. For more information about rabies, contact the health department or go on-line to