TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Florida Department of Health in Leon County has issued a county-wide rabies advisory in response to a recent increase in bite activity.
All residents and visitors in Leon County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated.
Advisories are designed to increase awareness to the public. Since January 2021, six animals have been tested for rabies in Leon County.
Bite activity has ranged from house pets, to wild animals such as a bobcat that tested negative and a bat that tested positive for rabies. Further surveillance analysis compared the number of reported bites to humans investigated by DOH Leon.
In January 2020, the department looked into 45 cases. In January 2021, 69 cases were investigated. Leon County residents and visitors to the area are advised to take the following precautions:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock. Florida law requires vaccinations for dogs, cats, and ferrets.
- Do not allow your pets to run free. Always keep them under control. 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 Animal Control Services for your jurisdiction.
- 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 encounter 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 850-404-8360.
- Report all unusual animal activity and suspected rabid animals immediately to Leon County Animal Control at 850-606-5800.
Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. It is transmitted to humans and pets through direct physical contact, such as a bite or scratch with an infected animal.
The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies vaccine.
Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease. Treatment can be extensive and expensive. This is another reason to avoid engaging in activities that pose a potential health and safety risk.
The health department’s Rabies Surveillance Program staff work with Leon County Animal Control and the City of Tallahassee Animal Service Center to keep the community safe and promote bite prevention and precautions. We know that some residents may be hesitant to report a dog bite because they fear serious consequences for the dog; they may have heard that dogs that bite will be put down or taken away from their owner.
In Florida, this is not necessarily the case. Some are returned to their owners after a period of quarantine, similar to people exposed to COVID-19.
For further information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-andconditions/rabies/index.html.