Ocala — The Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) wants residents of northern Marion County to be aware that a bat in their area has tested positive for rabies.
People who live or work in the Citra area should pay close attention, especially those who live north of Northwest 165th Street, south of Orange Lake, east of U.S. 441 and west of U.S. 301.
The positive test results indicate rabies is 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.
Accordingly, DOH-Marion urges all owners of pets or livestock to get their animals vaccinated for rabies.
DOH-Marion also strongly recommends that anyone bitten or scratched by any animal, wild or domestic, that is unfamiliar to them to seek medical attention immediately, but do not panic. Those with such injuries should report them to DOH-Marion, the county Animal Services Department, or local law enforcement.
If your pet or livestock is bitten by a wild animal, seek immediate help from a veterinarian and contact the Animal Services Department.
DOH-Marion recommends that anyone who believes they are at risk from a potential rabies exposure obtain post-exposure prophylaxis, or 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 also has 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, county residents and visitors are reminded to take the following precautions:
- Avoid all contact with wild animals.
- Never feed wild or stray animals, even by providing food sources outdoors.
- 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 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.
Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might encounter people and pets.
Visit marion.floridahealth.gov or cdc.gov/rabies to learn more about rabies and prevention.