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Polk County horse infected with rabies

The Polk County Department of Health is urging people to give them a call and get evaluated for rabies after a horse on Red Fox Road in Tryon was infected earlier this week. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

The Polk County Department of Health is urging people to give them a call and get evaluated for rabies after a horse on Red Fox Road in Tryon was infected earlier this week.

Six people are already being treated out of precaution because they had contact with the horse. The rabies virus can spread through saliva, including from people who fed the horse with their hands.

Nurse Alicia Dayberry says the symptoms are sometimes difficult to spot. They can include feeling a prickling or itching sensation if a person is bit.

"Some of the first signs a human might exhibit with rabies are similar to the flu, including weakness, headaches, discomfort or fever," said Nurse Dayberry.

According to Dr. Iain Fitch of Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital, animal symptoms are are more behavioral.

"The vet was called out because the horse was showing neurological signs," said Dr. Fitch. "Normally that means their gait is abnormal, they're not walking properly, there's a dull form of rabies where they're mentally dull, and they don't act normally. There's an aggressive form too."

The last time a equine rabies case was reported in Polk County is in 2010.

At this point, county officials don't know how the horse became infected. They have not reported any obvious bite marks.

Treatment for humans takes about one month. Animals that are infected, like the horse, typically have to be put down.

"There are some rare cases where people might survive a time period when they've been proven to be infected, but it's very rare," said Dr. Fitch.

The Department of Health says any person bitten or exposed to potentially infectious saliva from a horse in the area should contact their Department at 828-894-8271 or healthcare provider for a rabies risk assessment.

"The biggest thing is if you think you were exposed, seek medical attention, and find out if there was possible exposure you have to come in contact with saliva," said Dayberry.

Anyone that sees an animal demonstrating unusual behavior is urged to call the Polk County Animal Control Department at 828- 894-3001.

There is also a low-cost rabies vaccination on August 23, 2017 at the Green Creek Fire Department.

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