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Protect You and Yours Against Rabies

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A case in Escambia County is sounding the alarm for rabies

Residents in Escambia County are being advised not to make contact with wild and stray animals to protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure.

The incident took place about two weeks ago at Perdido Kids Park. The patient has not been identified.

“The report we got was than an individual had come into contact with a bat,” said Marie Mott, Administrator at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. “Bats are commonly a carrier of rabies, so rabies precautions have been put into place with that person.”

Bottom line, she says, is to stay away from domesticated animals you’re not familiar with, and from wild animals. If attacked, immediate action is warranted.

“If there’s been an exposure or a potential exposure to rabies, we just really encourage people to get attention,” Mott said. “Because precautions can be put into place right away; and that’s the important thing to know.”

Rabid animals may appear sick or lethargic, says Mott, along with possibly drooling or salivating heavily, and could be more inclined to interact with humans. The list of animals in Florida that are vulnerable to the disease is quite lengthy.

“Foxes, raccoons, bats and cats are some of the ones that we more commonly talk about; others include dogs, skunks and bobcats,” said Mott. “And again, some animals may have some appearances that may make them notable as possible rabies carriers, but some animals may have no visible symptoms at all.”

There are a number of ways to protect against rabies. Taking care of yourself also involves taking care of your pets.

“Vaccinate your pets and keep their vaccinations up to date; if you have them out of the yard, make sure you have them under control on a leash,” said Mott. “Or keep them in the yard or the house, as appropriate. If they’re bitten by a wild animal, take them to the vet. Keeping your pet food out of reach of other animals; bring your food in or feed your animals inside, [and] secure your trash cans.”

Most importantly, says Mott, is to take steps to protect your kids.

“Encourage and teach your children to not handle animals they do not know, that aren’t theirs or maybe their friends,” Mott said. “And even if they appear to be friendly, or if they appear to be domesticated, if you don’t know the animal and it’s not yours, just stay away from it.”

And if you need help, get it. Contact your county’s animal control agency, or your county’s Florida Department of Health office.