In the early part of 2008, Marion County issued the highest number of rabies alerts out of all of the counties in Florida. This means Marion County had more confirmed rabid (infected with rabies) animals than any other Florida county.
What is rabies, and how does it spread?
Rabies is a degenerative viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It can be prevented, but it can't be cured. The virus attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals (including people). While mostly controlled in the U.S., rabies is responsible for the deaths of 55,000 people each year.
How can I tell if an animal may possibly be rabid?
Animals infected with rabies typically exhibit odd behavior. They are either hyper aggressive and attack without provocation, or a wild animal may act tame. Rabid animals may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. An infected animal may also be drooling, staggering or appear paralyzed. This disease is usually deadly for most animals.
What should I do if an animal bites me?
If the animal has been killed, be careful to not damage the head of the animal and avoid any contact with the animal after it has died.
Protect your pets! Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies.
You may obtain a rabies vaccination at any veterinarian office (for a list of veterinarian offices in Marion County, click here), vaccine clinic (for a list of vaccine clinics that operate in Marion County, click here) or at the Animal Center. Rabies vaccines are available at the Animal Center Tuesday-Saturday, 2-3 p.m. They are also available at the Neuter Commuter from 2-3 p.m. each day that it's operational. For a schedule of Neuter Commuter locations, click here.
Prevention of rabies
Rabies is easily avoided by following the proper precautions:
If you suspect that your pet was exposed to a rabid animal, contact your veterinarian and local health department immediately. Do not handle your animal unless you are wearing gloves. Make sure to wash the wound with soap and water to wash away any saliva from the infected animal. Make sure that the animal does not come into contact with any other animals or people until the situation has been handled with your local animal control agency and county health department.
For additional information on rabies, please visit the following sites:
Florida Department of Health (FDOH): http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Environment/community/rabies/rabies-index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): http://www.avma.org/public_health/default.asp#rabies