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Henry County records 4th rabies case

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Officials have confirmed another case of rabies in rural Henry County. Animal control experts reported positive tests Thursday for rabies in a red fox found roaming a Locust Grove backyard on Wednesday.

The case is the fourth for rabies this calendar year, according to Vince Farah, rabies control officer and department coordinator for Henry County Animal Care and Control.

Farah said two of the other cases involved a raccoon, and a red fox. Both attacked pet dogs in southern parts of Henry County. The raccoon case was reported in January, and the red fox case was reported in April. He said a recent case included human contact.

The third case involved Scott Chumbley, who said he was attacked on June 6, by a rabid gray fox, just outside his Hampton home.

Chumbley was preparing to go to church, when he was ambushed by the animal. He said the 15-pound fox leapt out from the under carriage of one of his automobiles. "That thing just came out from the middle of nowhere," Chumbley said. "It got me twice. It got me on my right leg and my left foot."

He said he attempted to fight off the frantic animal, kicking it away several times, only to have it continue its attack.

"I kicked it about 20 times, the first round," he said. "I went into the house and got my .44 Magnum and shot it."

Chumbley received a first round of rabies treatments at Henry Medical Center on Monday, and a second round on Thursday. He said he will have two more treatments later this month. "It was unreal how strong that thing was," he said. "It would be real bad for a young kid, or elderly person, to be attacked by one of them."

Chumbley grew up in rural Hampton, and has had encounters with the area's more dangerous wildlife before. Ten years ago, he said, his pet dog was attacked by a rabid raccoon. His most recent encounter has made him more cautious, he said. He tells his 17-year-old daughter to be careful around their property, and to be ready to fight off the wild animals.

Chumbley's case may end up being the only human attack, but is not likely to be the last rabies case for Henry County in 2010, according to Rabies Control Officer Vince Farah.

"If I had to make a prediction, I would anticipate nine to 12, positive rabies cases this year," Farah said. "We had a record number of rabies cases [11 positive cases] last year."

Farah said the increased number of cases, where humans and domesticated animals are in contact with the infected wild life, is partly due to the urbanization of Henry County.

"The animals' habitat is shrinking," he said. "The county is not as rural as it once was. And now that it's not as rural, these animals are among us."

Farah warns residents to beware of wild animals. Residents should never feed wild animals, or leave an excessive amount of food for their domesticated outdoor pets, because the food source attracts wild animals, he explained. Likewise, residents should not leave trash and garbage in their yards that will not be disposed of immediately.

Farah also reminds pet owners to keep their dogs, cats, and ferrets current in their vaccinations. He said pets that are exposed to rabies, and do not have current pre-exposure vaccinations, must, by state law and local ordinance, undergo an often costly, six-month quarantine.

"Anyone that is bitten by a wild animal, if it is possible, that animal needs to be tested for rabies," he added. "And anyone who is bitten should report the case to their local animal care and control department."

The Henry County Animal Care and Control Department can be reached by phone at (770) 288-PETS (7387), or online, at www.co.henry.ga.us/animalcontrol.