If it seems like CSRA rabies cases are high, it’s because they really are

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 9:09 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2023 at 5:39 PM EDT
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APPLING, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After a summer when it seemed like a rabid animal was found weekly in the CSRA, it’s happened again.

The CDC says two people from the U.S. die from rabies each year.

“Rabies is something to be very concerned about. It can kill you,” said Wildlife Biologist Lee Taylor.

The latest incident happened in Columbia County on Sept. 20, when a dog fought with a raccoon on Yelton Farm Road in Appling. The raccoon tested positive for rabies.

Just a few days earlier, a rabid raccoon was found in McDuffie County.

Those two counties account for most of the cases the CSRA has seen this year.

If you’re wondering if the counties’ cases are high compared to the rest of the state – they are.

While they don’t have the highest number of cases – that distinction goes to Gwinnett County with nine – they’re definitely among the highest.

In fact, Columbia County ties Banks County for No. 2 with seven cases this year, and McDuffie is in a multi-way tie for No. 4 with five cases.


Nancy Nydam of the Georgia Department of Public Health notes that the stats are preliminary and only include cases reported to the agency. But they do give us a good idea of where the CSRA fits into the big picture.

We spoke not long ago with Terri McCollister from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control about rabies.

“Rabies is fickle. It kind of goes up and down like anything else,” said McCollister.


Biologist Lee Taylor says the number tends to go up once there’s a report of a rabid raccoon – the type of animal that seems to be the main culprit around here, although there have been a few reports of rabid skunks.

I.C. Parnell with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says rabies is such a serious virus because it’s always fatal when contracted.

McCollister said: “We don’t want any person or any pet to die from rabies.”

Knowing the signs is important.

You mostly hear about the cases of rabies where animals get aggressive, foam at the mouth and attack everything around them. But some animals are affected in other ways; the animal may sit there and seem oblivious to everything.

So if you see a wild animal that seems gentle and passive – one that may even approach you – it may be rabid.

There is some good news though. Taylor says rabid raccoon incidents tend to decline during the fall months.

“This time of year, the sightings do kind of return to normal activity,” he said.

What to do

Health officials recommend taking these steps:

  • Make sure your dogs and cats are currently vaccinated against rabies.
  • Do not let your pets roam free. They are more likely to have contact with a rabid wild animal.
  • Avoid feeding your animals outside. This draws stray and wild animals to your doorstep.
  • Teach your children not to approach wild animals and animals they don’t know.

By the numbers

Here are the county-by-county preliminary totals of rabies cases in Georgia so far this year:

  • Baldwin, 1
  • Banks, 7
  • Barrow, 1
  • Bartow, 1
  • Bibb, 1
  • Bulloch, 1
  • Burke, 2
  • Carroll, 2
  • Chatham, 2
  • Chattooga, 1
  • Cherokee, 2
  • Clarke, 2
  • Cobb, 3
  • Coffee, 1
  • Columbia, 7
  • Crawford, 1
  • Crisp, 1
  • Dekalb, 3
  • Dougherty, 6
  • Douglas, 1
  • Evans, 1
  • Floyd, 4
  • Forsyth, 1
  • Franklin, 4
  • Fulton, 2
  • Glascock, 1
  • Glynn, 3
  • Gordon, 2
  • Gwinnett, 9
  • Habersham, 3
  • Hall, 5
  • Harris, 1
  • Hart, 4
  • Henry, 3
  • Houston, 1
  • Jefferson, 1
  • Jenkins, 1
  • Lowndes, 1
  • Lumpkin, 2
  • Madison, 2
  • McDuffie, 5
  • Mitchell, 1
  • Murray, 1
  • Muscogee, 4
  • Oconee, 1
  • Paulding, 2
  • Pickens, 1
  • Pike, 2
  • Pulaski, 1
  • Rabun, 1
  • Richmond, 2
  • Rockdale, 3
  • Schley, 1
  • Tattnall, 1
  • Thomas, 1
  • Tift, 2
  • Toombs, 2
  • Troup, 1
  • Upson, 1
  • Walton, 2
  • Wayne, 1
  • Worth, 5