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Health Officials Warn Residents To Stay Away From Wild Animals Who May Have Rabies

A photo of a Bichon Frise, a long white-coated dog
Seth Reese

Their last rabies cases may have been two years ago, but Franklin and Gulf County health officials still want area residents to keep their distance from wild animals who may be carriers for the disease.

In Florida, raccoons, bats, foxes, and unvaccinated cats are the animals most frequently diagnosed with rabies. The fatal disease can be transmitted through a scratch or bite. Symptoms can include paralysis, hallucinations, and muscle spasms. Sarah Hinds is the Administrator for the Franklin and Gulf County Health Department. She says vaccinating all pets is key.

“We want to make sure you have your veterinarian vaccinate all your dogs, your cats, your ferrets, your horses, against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian’s instructions for revaccination,” she said. “You want to avoid contact with wild or stray animals. You never want to feed wild or stray animals, no matter how cute they may look. Avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources, like if you leave a dog bowl out.”

If a pet is attacked by a wild animal, Hinds says it’s important to examine them for injuries with gloves on.

If an animal bites or scratches a person, they should immediately scrub the wound with soap and water. Then, Hinds says they need to go to a doctor or the nearest hospital. World Rabies Day is September 28.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.