By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Health officials in Macon, GA report a possible rabies exposure that occurred at a Aug. 3 event. Anyone who attended the “Raccoon or Kitten?” event at The Village Gallery and Studio is asked to contact the Macon-Bibb County Health Department Environmental Health Office at 478-749-0106.

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The Village Gallery and Studio, located at 2368 Ingleside Ave., hosted an event Aug. 3 that offered participants an opportunity to interact with a juvenile raccoon. The raccoon, owned by a private citizen at the time of possible expose, was later given to a wildlife rehabilitation center where it then died. The raccoon was tested positive for rabies. Anyone who was in contact with the raccoon at the event, or at any time it was being cared for by the individual (July 26 – Aug. 9), is asked to call their healthcare provider and the Environmental Health Office at 478-749-0106 to aid in the investigation.

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Local media report that at least 21 people started rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), according to Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District.

Rabies is a viral disease that can be carried by mammals and transmitted through an infected animal’s saliva through a bite or scratch. In rare cases, the virus can spread from infectious material coming in contact with a mucus membrane like eyes or nose, or an open wound. Once it enters the body, rabies attacks the brain causing encephalopathy and death.

Symptoms of rabies in humans include fever, headache and tiredness. As the illness progresses, the exposed person may experience anxiety, insomnia, confusion, excitement, hallucinations, agitation, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the appearance of advanced symptoms.

While there is no effective treatment for rabies once symptoms of the illness appear, rabies can be prevented in humans if medical care and post-exposure prophylaxis is provided soon after exposure to the virus. Post-exposure treatment requires a series of shots, but left untreated, rabies is always fatal.