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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

DOH-Marion issues warning after bat tests positive for rabies in Citra

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) wants residents to be aware that a bat in northern Marion County has tested positive for rabies.

Anyone who lives or works in the Citra area should pay close attention, especially those who live north of NW 165th Street, south of Orange Lake, east of U.S. 441, and west of U.S. 301, according to DOH-Marion. The positive test results indicate that rabies is currently active in that area.

DOH-Marion encourages those who have encountered a bat infestation — such as residents of the community or wildlife trappers operating in that area — to take extra precautions.

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system that is fatal to humans if left untreated, and deadly to unvaccinated warm-blooded animals.

DOH-Marion urges all owners of pets or livestock to get their animals vaccinated for rabies.

While there is no need to panic, DOH-Marion strongly recommends that anyone who is bitten or scratched by any unfamiliar animal, wild or domestic, should seek medical attention immediately. Those who are bitten or scratched should also report those injuries to DOH-Marion, the county 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.

For anyone who believes they are at risk from a potential rabies exposure, DOH-Marion 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 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 rabies carriers are raccoons, bats, and cats (typically feral cats).

DOH-Marion 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, DOH-Marion 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 to examine your pet. Do not let your animal contact other animals or people until the situation is handled by animal control or DOH-Marion staff.

DOH-Marion 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.

For more information about rabies and prevention, visit the Florida Department of Health in Marion County or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.