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Health Officials: Avoid Wild, Stray Animals To Prevent Rabies Exposure

By Christopher Tittel

September 20, 2018

Contact:
Christopher Tittel, Public Information Officer
Christopher.Tittel@FLHealth.gov
(850) 606-8190 / (305) 924-6839

Tallahassee — The Florida Department of Health in Leon County urges residents to avoid contact with wild and stray animals to protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure.

World Rabies Day is September 28.

In Florida, raccoons, bats, foxes and unvaccinated cats are the animals most frequently diagnosed with rabies. Other animals that are at high risk for rabies include skunks, otters, coyotes, bobcats and stray or unvaccinated dogs and ferrets.

Each year, Leon County receives reports of rabid animals. The most recent case was reported earlier this month, when a member of the public came in contact with a fox that was later determined to be rabid. This person is receiving routine treatment for rabies exposure as a precautionary measure.

“Rabies is a potentially fatal disease,” DOH-Leon Environmental Health Director Alex Mahon said. “It is important not to handle wild animals, to be aware of unusual acting animals and to keep pets vaccinated against rabies.”

Rabies is transmitted through exposure to the saliva and nervous tissue from a rabid animal through a bite, scratch or contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth.

DOH- Leon works with Leon County Animal Services in responding to incidents of animal bites, tests animals for rabies through the Department of Health state laboratory and quarantines animals as necessary. DOH- Leon also provides rabies vaccinations to victims of animal bites, the only known effective treatment for rabies prevention in humans.

The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
  • Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property. If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact DOH-Leon at (850) 606-8350.
  • Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
  • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources such as uncovered trash or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to DOH- Leon at (850) 606-8350.

For further information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html, or contact DOH- Leon at (850) 606-8350.

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