The Orange County Health Department (http://www.orchd.com/index.asp) issued a rabies alert today in cooperation with Orange County Animal Services (http://www.orangecountyfl.net/cms/dept/cesrvcs/animal/services.htm) due to one raccoon and one fox found to have rabies in the last two weeks in East Orange County. The wild animals were captured and tested positive for rabies after two separate incidents. Several dogs came in contact with the rabid raccoon and fox. The dogs that were exposed to these animals are under a 45-day home quarantine for rabies.
The rabies alert area is bordered on the west by Alafaya Trail, on the north by Lake Pickett Road, on the east by Fort Christmas Road and Taylor Creek Road and on the south by the Beechline or 528. The alert will be in effect for 60 days.
“Rabies is a potentially deadly disease. Parents need to supervise small children carefully and be aware of unusual acting animals,” said Dr. Kevin M. Sherin, Director of the Orange County Health Department.
Rabies is a disease caused by the rabies virus. Rabies is transmitted through exposure to the saliva and nervous tissue from a rabid animal through a bite, scratch, or contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. The early signs of rabies can be fever or headache, but this changes quickly to nervous system signs, such as confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Once someone with the rabies infection starts having these symptoms, that person usually does not survive. The only effective treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunizations before signs of illness develop. This is why it is very important to talk to your doctor or health care provider right away if any animal bites you, especially a wild animal.
Orange County receives reports of rabid animals each year. High risk animals for rabies exposure to humans and pets are foxes, raccoons, bats, skunks, otters, and coyotes. Stray or feral cats and dogs pose an increased risk of exposure due to lack of rabies immunizations.
While reports of rabies are not totally unusual the number of occurrences are not high. Said Dain Weister, Public Information Officer for the Orange County Health Department, “Rabies is something we see in Central Florida usually around spring. It is unusual for this to occur in the winter.”
According to Mr. Weister, this is the third rabies alert issued in the past four years involving Orange County. The last one was issued on April 2, 2009 in East Orange County (near I-4 towards the University of Central Florida) where three raccoons were found to have rabies and were involved with three separate incidents with dogs.
Rabies alerts are issued to increase awareness and are broadcast after two or more incidents in close proximity (including time and space) are reported. However, the health department also cautions that citizens should not be given a false sense of security to areas that have not been named under an alert.
The Orange County Health Department urges the public to help protect themselves and to prevent the spread of rabies by taking the following steps:
- Homeowners in the alert area should be sure that their pets are fully immunized against rabies.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Orange County Animal Services at (407) 836-3111.
- Avoid contact with all wildlife, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, and coyotes.
- Wild animals and stray pets should not be approached. Do not handle, feed, or attract wild or stray animals. Unusual acting animals should be reported to Orange County Animal Services at 407-836-3111 for handling.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people or pets.
- Secure outside garbage in covered containers to avoid attracting wild animals.
- Do not leave pet food outside. This may attract other animals.
For questions regarding the health of an animal, contact a veterinarian.
Veterinarian staff and animal control staff should be alert for animals encountered with signs suspicious for rabies and contact the Orange County Health Department at 407-521-2630 with reports of such animals.
Anyone who is bitten or scratched by wild animals or strays should report the incident to their doctor immediately, as well as Orange County Animal Services and their local health department. The contact number to report an animal bite to Orange County Health Department is (407) 858-1420.
For further information on rabies, go to the Florida Department of Health website at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/epi/diseases.htm or contact the Orange County Health Department, Environmental Health Office at 407-521-2630.
Orange County Animal Services offers free rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats through “Pet Amnesty Day” once a month (limit 5 per household). This outreach and education event provides an opportunity for the Animal Services mobile clinic to enter targeted communities to offer free rabies vaccines for dogs and cats over 4 months old. It also provides citizens the opportunity to surrender pets they are no longer able to care for. The next scheduled event is from 9AM to 12PM this Saturday, February 13th at John Bridges Community Center, 445 W 13th Street, Apopka, FL 32703. For more information on rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats visit the Orange County Animal Services website.
In brief, all citizens in Orange County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and poses a risk to humans and unvaccinated domestic animals. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness of rabies in Orange County.