The Florida Department of Health in Marion County wants residents in Citra to be aware that a raccoon in their community has tested positive for rabies.
Those who live or work in Citra should pay close attention, especially residents who live north of County Road 329, south of County Road 316, east of U.S. 441, and west of NE 47th Avenue. The positive test results indicate that rabies is active in that area.
Any pets and domestic animals who are not vaccinated for rabies are vulnerable to the disease. Owners of pets or livestock are encouraged to get their animals vaccinated for rabies.
While there is no need to panic, the Department of Health strongly recommends that anyone who has been bitten or scratched by any animal, wild or domestic, should seek medical attention immediately. Those who are bitten or scratched should also report the injury to the Department of Health, the county’s Animal Services Department, or local law enforcement.
In the event that your pet or livestock is bitten by a wild animal, seek immediate help from a veterinarian and contact the Animal Services Department.
Rabies is a disease of the nervous system that is fatal to humans if left untreated. The disease is also fatal to unvaccinated warm-blooded animals.
For anyone who believes they were at risk from a potential rabies exposure, the Department of Health recommends post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment. PEP is the series of shots administered to build up the patient’s immunity to rabies. PEP is recommended when the animal tests positive for rabies, or when testing the animal is not possible because it could not be found for observation or testing.
While dogs are often the animals most closely associated with a rabies infection, canine-related rabies infections are rare in Florida due to a high vaccination rate among dogs. In Marion County, the most common carriers are raccoons, bats, and cats (typically feral cats).
The Department of Health has also initiated investigations for possible rabies exposure because of human contact with foxes, squirrels, rats, rabbits, pigs, horses, opossums, goats, deer, coyotes, and bears.
To prevent possible rabies infection, the Department of Health is reminding Marion County residents and visitors to take the following precautions:
- Avoid all contact with wild animals.
- Never feed wild or stray animals, even by providing outdoor food sources.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
- Supervise pets and do not allow them to roam free. Secure livestock on your property.
- Never handle unfamiliar animals (wild or domestic), even if they appear friendly.
- Vaccinate all pets and livestock.
- Realize that rabies is not transmitted only through bites. People or animals can contract rabies through scratches or exposure to an infected animal’s saliva, such as from licks or a pet that has shared a food source with a positive carrier.
If your pet or livestock is attacked by a wild animal or a stray that you suspect is unvaccinated, you must wear gloves if you examine your pet. Do not let your animal contact other animals or people until the situation is handled by animal control or staff from the county’s Department of Health.
The Department of Health also stresses the importance of preventing bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might encounter people and pets.