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Ellijay, Ga. — A fox that has now tested positive for rabies attempted to attack two hikers in Gilmer County on Sunday, July 19, according to a press release from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Gilmer County Environmental Health officials reported that a man and woman were walking along a road in the Eagle Mountain section of Coosawattee River Resort when a fox started coming towards them in a menacing manner. The man kicked the fox twice in the head and it landed in a ditch, the statement said. The stunned fox got up and was coming after them again, when a local woman saw what was happening and drove over the fox with her car, the statement said.

Health officials were notified of the incident on Monday, July 20. The Georgia Public Health Laboratory confirmed on Tuesday, July 21, that the fox did test positive for rabies.

It appeared the man who kicked the fox incurred no scratches or bites in the incident; however, as a precaution, environmental health officials have encouraged him to seek medical advice from his physician to determine his level of exposure, the statement said.

Ray King, director of environmental health for North Georgia Health District 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said, "Rabies exists in wildlife populations, so, naturally, rabid animals periodically come into contact with humans."

King advises the public to be cautious when encountering either wild or domestic animals that are exhibiting unusual behavior and report them to animal control or their county environmental health office.

Officials say it is critical to also report any attacks or bites by a stray or wild animal. If bitten, people are advised to thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention, immediately. If a pet is bitten, the owner should seek veterinary assistance for the animal right away. The health care provider and/or the veterinarian will need to know the following to assess the risk of rabies exposure:

*  The geographic location of the incident

* The type of animal that was involved

* How the exposure occurred (provoked or unprovoked

* The vaccination status of the animal

* Whether the animal can be safely captured and tested for rabies

To help protect against rabies and prevent its spread, Officials ask that people keep pets current on rabies vaccinations.

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