Escambia County health officials are out with a rabies advisory for the West Pensacola area, after a raccoon tested positive for the disease last weekend.
“There was a scuffle between a raccoon and a couple of domestic dogs; and when the raccoon — who died during the scuffle — was tested [it] was found to be positive for rabies,” said Dr. John Lanza, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.
“We had to quarantine the dogs — even though they were vaccinated for rabies — for 10 days just to make sure they’re OK,” said Lanza. “And then the adults who came in contact with the raccoon and the dogs have to be given the immunization vaccinations – five doses over a week or two.”
The message is going forth from the Health Department, to both residents and visitors, to maintain a heightened awareness with rabies reported in the county. Both wild and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated; humans can also protect themselves with a “hands off” approach to wildlife.
“The raccoons are the most common way of transmitting rabies in the southeastern United States,” said Lanza. “We usually get a positive raccoon once or twice a year; although a couple of months ago we did have a positive cat. And then prior to that, a fox. Never approach, never pet, never feed, never get involved with a wild animal, because you never know if they have rabies or other diseases.”
Vaccinating pets is mandatory under Florida law; and Lanza says they’re also required for people who work in the animal care industry.
“Veterinarians, their helpers, animal control people – can get a series of three of these shots,” Lanza said. “We generally don’t recommend it for the entire population; the expense of getting three shots for the whole population – the risk is not significant.”
If you or your pet is bitten, seek medical attention immediately. And Lanza says the treatment has evolved from the old “shots to the belly” protocol.
“We tried to get them on the vaccine on those situations where it’s called for within a couple of days,” said Lanza. “It’s just like getting any other vaccination – not in the stomach, it’s the normal place where we get [a] vaccine.”
For more information, or to report an animal bite, contact the FDOH-Escambia Environmental Health office at 850-595-6700, or www.EscambiaHealth.com.