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Escambia County Rabies Cases Under Investigation


The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County is out with a rabies advisory for the Warrington and Navy Point areas, and is on the lookout for any further such cases.

County Health Director Dr. John Lanza says the cases involved a pair of foxes in separate encounters with humans. The most recent attack resulted in the death of that fox.  As for the fox in the first attack, there is uncertainty.

“The fox was not captured, so we don’t know for sure,” said Lanza. “We just know that it did bite someone [and] it was behaving unusually in that situation. We don’t have a confirmation.”

Foxes are among the most frequently diagnosed with rabies, along with raccoons, stray cats and dogs, skunks, bobcats and otters. But Lanza says it’s another animal that takes the top spot.

“Everyone in public health assumes that a bat has rabies; just automatically,” Lanza says. “We’ve had so many cases of bats being around humans. They were captured or just died, and their brain was evaluated and found to be rabid.”

While normally one cannot tell just by looking at an animal whether or not it has rabies, Lanza says there are some tell-tale signs.

“If an animal that is wild comes after or attacks a human,” says Lanza. “They usually don’t do that unless they’re provoked. But they will come after a human if they’re rabid.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Dr. John Lanza, Director, Florida Dept. of Health-Escambia Co.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the central nervous system. It’s transmitted by a rabid animal through a bite or scratch that breaks the skin, or by contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Without proper treatment, rabies can cause brain infection and death.

Preventive measures, says Escambia Health Director Dr. John Lanza, need to begin long before the shots. One is a fairly simple rule of thumb.

“If it’s not your pet, stay away from it,” Lanza says.

Other measures: vaccinate all pets and spay or neuter them. Do not feed them outside; secure your garbage, and keep pets in a fenced yard or on a leash at all times.

If you have critter problems, contact your county Animal Control office.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.