By Johnny Jackson
Officials with the Henry County Animal Care and Control Department are encouraging residents to have their pets vaccinated for rabies.
The department, which sponsors rabies vaccine clinics once each year, is planning to host a clinic in November, according to Vince Farah, the department's coordinator and rabies control officer.
The clinic is partly a proactive measure, he said, to combat an increasing number of rabies cases in the area's wild animals.
"There has been a high incidence of rabies cases, lately," said Farah. "More than average."
According to Farah, the number of confirmed, positive rabies cases reported in Henry County so far this year has already surpassed each of the previous two years' totals.
Farah said that as of Friday, there have been nine positive rabies cases reported in Henry County. He said six such cases were reported last year and two cases in 2007.
"They've been sporadic this year ... [and] all in neighborhoods," he said. "The majority of the cases have been in the last three months."
The department determined there were three cases in Stockbridge which tested positive for rabies. They also found positive cases in wild animals in neighborhoods around McDonough and Locust Grove.
Farah said the cases have come mostly from infected raccoons that have encroached on the territories of domesticated cats and dogs. He said eight raccoons have, so far, tested positive, along with a fox which came in contact with two humans.
Surrounding counties, he said, have experienced a lower incidence of positive rabies cases than Henry County. Clayton and Spalding counties have had no positive rabies cases so far this year, while Rockdale and Fayette counties reported four cases each. DeKalb has reported three cases.
Henry County Animal Care and Control Department Director Gerri Yoder advises people to use extreme caution when they come into the vicinity of wild animals.
"People need to be wary of any wild animal that does not appear to be afraid of humans," Yoder said.
She added that animals infected by rabies sometimes exhibit aggressive behaviors, but may also appear disoriented or sickly.
It is important for pet owners to keep their animals' rabies vaccinations current, in case they encounter an infected animal, continued Yoder.
"State law requires any companion animal over 12 weeks old to be vaccinated and stay current on their vaccinations," she said, adding that rabies vaccinations can be administered once every three years, but are typically given in annual doses.
The department will host its Rabies Vaccination and Microchip Clinic on Nov. 7, from 9 a.m., to 1 p.m., at the Henry County Animal Care and Control Shelter, located at 527 Hampton Street in McDonough.
Ellenwood veterinarian Andrew McKnight will be on hand to administer rabies vaccines at $10 per vaccination.
The Henry County Humane Society will also be providing American Veterinary Identification Devices (AVID), or microchip IDs, for $25 each, which will cover the implantation of the microchip devices and registration with AVID Identification Systems.
To learn more, visit the Henry County Board of Commissioners web site, or call (770) 288-7387.
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