Health department issues rabies warning

The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County has issued a rabies alert after a local raccoon tested positive for the rabies virus. 

The health department reported that the animal was found in the parking lot of the Home Depot at 5151 NW 13th St. in north Gainesville on Monday, Nov. 15. 

“All residents and visitors in Alachua County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated,” the health department advised in a statement. “Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not get a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert.”

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The alert is for 60 days. The health department said it is specifically targeted to citizens or their pets who may have encountered the raccoon on or immediately before Nov. 15.

“An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies,” the release said. “All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.”

Rabies is a virus in the saliva of infected animals and is typically transferred through a bite. It attacks the nervous system and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

“The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization,” the health department said. “Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure, will protect an exposed person from the disease.”

The health department advised residents to take the following precautions:

  • 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 Alachua County Animal Services, 352-264-6880.
  • Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
  • 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.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-7930.

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