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FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH IN ESCAMBIA COUNTY URGES RESIDENTS TO AVOID CONTACT WITH WILD AND STRAY ANIMALS

By FDOH-Escambia

October 08, 2020

Pensacola, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County (FDOH-Escambia) urges 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, FDOH-Escambia receives reports of rabid animals. In 2019, four rabid animals including three racoons and one cat were reported in Escambia County. Most recently, one fox with exposure to a dog was reported in October 2020. 

“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,” said FDOH-Escambia’s Administrator, Marie Mott. 

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. FDOH-Escambia works with Escambia 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. FDOH-Escambia 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 Escambia County Animal Services at 850-595-0097.
  • Call your local animal control agency 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. 

Anyone who is bitten or scratched by wild animals or strays should report the incident to their doctor immediately, as well as Escambia County Animal Services and their local health department. To report an animal bite to FDOH-Escambia call 850-595-6700. 

For further information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html, or contact FDOH-Escambia’s Environmental Health office at 850-595-6700 or visit www.EscambiaHealth.com.

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About the Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyEscambia and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.