Escambia County residents and visitors are being advised to protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure, after a recent attack on an Escambia County resident.
According to the Florida Department of Health-Escambia County, a resident of the Dog Track Road area was attacked by a fox last week. The animal was located, killed and its brain sent to the state lab.
“[It] was tested for rabies, and found to be positive. This is the second fox so far this calendar year; the first one was up in Century last July,” said Dr. John Lanza, Director of DOH-Escambia.
Generally, he says, healthy wild animals will not attack humans: especially if they are not provoked.
“But in this case, and any case with an animal that is rabid, they do behaviors that are unusual for them,” Lanza said. “They can be very aggressive, and in this case the animal attacked the person. The person did absolutely nothing to provoke the attack. Fortunately, the person is doing fine.”
Rabies is a viral disease infecting the central nervous system. It’s transmitted by a rabid animal by a bite, a scratch, or by contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Brain infection and death are possible without proper treatment – which is not as scary as it used to be.
“The classic story was that you got shots in your stomach,” said Lanza. “That’s not the case. There’s a series of four shots that are in the frontal thigh area. There may also be some immunoglobulin that’s given, depending on the situation.”
In Florida, raccoons, foxes, bats, and cats are the animals most frequently diagnosed with rabies. Other high-risk animals include dogs, bobcats, skunks, and otters.
Avoiding rabies is fairly simple, beginning with inoculating household pets -- mandatory under Florida law. Lanza says they’re also required for people who work in the animal care industry.
“Veterinarians, their helpers, and animal control people can get a series of three shots,” Lanza said. “We generally don’t recommend it for the entire population. I wouldn’t say rabies is rare, but it is not frequent. The expense of getting three shots for the whole population, the risk is not significant.”
Teach your children not to go near wild and stray animals, and never keep them as pets. There’s no way to tell if an animal has rabies just by looking at it. Also, feed your pets indoors, and keep them in a fenced yard or on a leash at all times.
If you or your pet is bitten, seek medical attention immediately. For more information, or to report an animal bite, contact the FDOH-Escambia Environmental Health office at 850-595-6700, or www.EscambiaHealth.com.