Bay County - The Florida Department of Health in Bay County is encouraging citizens to take steps to protect their families and pets from rabies.
While rabies is normally present at low levels in raccoon and bat populations in Florida, rabies activity in Bay County has been high for the last three years.
One Bay County cat and three raccoons have tested positive for rabies in 2013. One bobcat and nine raccoons tested positive for rabies in 2012 and seven raccoons, two cats, and one bat in were found to be rabid in 2011. The rabid animals were found in many different parts of Bay County, including both ends of Panama City Beach. Many of the raccoons were killed by dogs.
By law, dogs, cats, and ferrets over four months of age must be currently vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. A dog or cat can be exposed to rabies during a conflict with a rabid wild mammal, such as a raccoon, bat, fox, bobcat, otter, beaver, skunk or coyote. Call your dog or cat’s veterinarian and verify its rabies vaccination has not expired. Depending on the age of your pet and the vaccine type used by the veterinarian, a rabies vaccination is good for either one or three years. The first rabies vaccine a dog or cat receives is only good for one year. Horses and livestock should also be vaccinated for rabies.
Holes around the outside of a house that might allow raccoons and bats access should be repaired. Raccoons are unsanitary, destructive, and hard to remove once they establish themselves in crawl spaces, walls, and attics. Bats will enter small holes or cracks along eaves to roost. Bats are protected and beneficial animals, but they should not be roosting in an occupied building. If your home is already infested by raccoons or bats, consult a professional trapper before sealing holes to avoid trapping animals inside.
Do not attract wild animals to your house by feeding them. Feed dogs and cats indoors and keep garbage cans covered. Unattended pet food and garbage will attract raccoons to your house and into areas where they can fight with a dog or cat. Feeding raccoons is illegal in the State of Florida.
Never touch a stray dog, cat, or a wild mammal. No mammal is too young to have rabies. Rabies may cause raccoons and other wild mammals to lose their fear of humans or dogs and to seem tame. If you encounter a sick, injured, orphaned, aggressive, or strange-acting domestic or wild mammal, call your local animal control office (Bay County 850-248-6034, Lynn Haven 850-265-1112, Panama City Beach 850-233-5000, or Mexico Beach 850-648-4790).
Any warm blooded animal or human can be infected with the rabies virus. Once exposed to the virus, rabies is usually fatal without timely post-exposure medical treatment (“rabies shots”). The rabies virus is secreted in the saliva of an infected animal or human. Exposure to the virus is through broken skin (bites, scratches) or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth) contact with infected saliva or tissues.
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. If the animal is stray or wild, call 911 or your areas animal control office to report the animal’s location. Seek medical attention as needed and report the injury to the Bay County Health Department at 850-872-4455, X1125.
For further information on rabies, go to the Florida Department of Health website:
http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/medicine/rabies/rabies-index.html or contact the Florida Department of Health in Bay County at 850-872-4455, X1125.