A rabid beaver bit a young girl while she was swimming in a northeast Georgia lake, local news outlets reported, prompting the girl's father to kill the animal.
Kevin Buecker, field supervisor for Hall County Animal Control, told WDUN-AM that the beaver bit the girl on Saturday while she was swimming off private property in the northern end of Lake Lanier near Gainesville.
The girl's father beat the beaver to death, Beucker said.
Don McGowan, supervisor for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division, told WSB-TV that a game warden who responded described the animal as "the biggest beaver he's ever seen." The warden estimated it at 50 or 55 pounds, McGowan said.
The beaver later tested positive forat a state lab.
"Once that rabies virus gets into the brain of the animal - in this case, a beaver - they just act crazy," McGowan said.
Hall County officials have put up signs warning people of rabies. They're asking nearby residents to watch for animals acting abnormally and urging them to vaccinate pets against the viral disease.
"We bring our kids here probably once a month during the summer. It's awful to think something could happen to a child," beachgoer Kimberly Stealey told WSB-TV.
State wildlife biologists said beaver attacks are rare. They said the last one they remember in Lake Lanier was 13 years ago.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, beavers were almost eliminated from the state nearly a century ago because of unregulated trapping and habitat loss, but restoration efforts by wildlife officials over the decades have proven successful.
"Today, beavers are thriving statewide, harvest demands are low, and there is no closed season on taking beavers in Georgia," DNR said.
What are the symptoms of rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease in mammals that infects the central nervous system and, if left untreated, attacks the brain and ultimately causes death.
If a person is infected, early symptoms of rabies include fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. There may be a prickling or itching sensation in the area of the bite. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms will begin to show, including insomnia, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. Partial paralysis may set in and the person may have hallucinations and delirium. They'll experience an increase in saliva, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water) because of the difficulty swallowing.
How is rabies transmitted?
Rabies is transmitted to humans and other mammals through the saliva of an infected animal that bites or scratches them. The majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
In the United States, laws requiring rabies immunizations in dogs have largely eradicated the disease in pets but some dogs, particularly strays, do carry the disease. This is especially important to keep in mind when visiting other countries where stray dogs can be a big problem, Hynes says.
Parents should keep in mind that children are at particular risk for exposure to rabies.
What is the treatment for rabies?
If your doctor decides you need rabies treatment, you will receive a series of post-exposure anti-rabies vaccinations. The shots are given on four different days over a period of two weeks. The first dose is administered as soon as possible after exposure, followed by additional doses three, seven and 14 days after the first one.
The CDC also recommends a dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), which is administered once at the beginning of the treatment process. It provides immediate antibodies against rabies until the body can start actively producing antibodies of its own in response to the vaccine.
Ashley Welch contributed to this report.
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