Earlier this week, a 50-pound beaver attacked a young girl at Lake Lanier. The animal later tested positive for rabies.  

The last time a rabid beaver was reported in Georgia was 2018. Most often, rabies affects raccoons, skunks, and foxes that bite other animals or people, said Julie Gabel, epidemiologist and veterinarian for the state department of public health.  

Though rabies is always present among Georgia wildlife, Gabel said they usually see an uptick in reports of rabid animals during the summer, when people are outside more. 

“This is exactly the reason why people need to vaccinate their pets and stay away from wildlife,” Gabel said. “That’s the best way they can protect themselves.”

To avoid negative interactions with wildlife, it’s important not to provoke them, Gabel said. 

On average, Georgia DPH tests up to 2,000 animals a year for rabies, and sees about 200 positive cases. 

“Occasionally we’ll have a weird one pop up, maybe a horse, maybe a cow,” Gabel said. “We definitely have small numbers of dogs and cats that test positive. But it’s primarily going to be carnivorous wildlife.”

While the disease is mostly deadly for infected animals, humans can get a series of shots to treat a bite or scratch. The Georgia Poison Center provides rabies risk assessments 24/7 to help determine whether treatment is necessary. 

Rabies cases should be reported to local public health departments.

This story comes to Rough Draft Atlanta through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Sofi Gratas covers rural health and health care for GPB. She joined GPB in June 2022 as a Report for America Corps member.