Marianna — Jackson health officials urge residents to avoid contact with wild and stray animals to protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure.
In Florida, raccoons, bats and 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, rabid animals are discovered in Jackson County. In the past 12 months, 7 rabid raccoon exposures were investigated, all of which involved domestic pets.
“Rabies is a potentially fatal disease. It is important not to handle wild animals, to be aware of unusual acting animals, and to keep pets vaccinated against rabies,” emphasized T.G. Harkrider, Environmental Health Director at the Department of Health in Jackson County.
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. The Department of Health in Jackson County works with Jackson County Animal Control in responding to incidents of animal bites, tests animals for rabies through the Department of Health state laboratory when necessary, and quarantines animals when required. The Department of Health 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.
• Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Department of Health in Jackson County 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 850-526-2412.
• Call Jackson County Animal Control to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
• 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 open garbage cans 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.
Unusual acting animals should be reported to Jackson County Animal Control at 850-718-0021 for handling. Anyone who is bitten or scratched by wild animals or strays should report the incident to their doctor immediately, as well as to the Department of Health. The 24 hour/7 day a week contact number for the Department in Jackson County is 850-526-2412.
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 Department of Health in Jackson County Environmental Health office at 850-482-9227.