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Health Officials Urge Residents to Avoid Contact with Wild and Stray Animals

By Crystal Steele

February 13, 2019

Feb 13, 2019
Health Officials Urge Residents to Avoid
Contact with Wild and Stray Animals
Contact: Crystal Steele
Crystal.steele@flhealth.gov
(850) 892-8021
Walton County— The Florida Department of Health in Walton County (DOH-Walton) urges residents to
avoid contact with wild and stray animals to protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure.
In Florida, raccoons, bats and foxes, and unvaccinated cats are the animals most frequently diagnosed
with rabies. Other animals that are at high risk for rabies include skunks, otters, coyotes, bobcats, and
stray or unvaccinated dogs and ferrets. Each year, (DOH-Walton) receives reports of rabid animals. This
is the second raccoon to test positive in the Freeport area in 2019.
“Rabies is a potentially fatal disease. It is important not to handle wild animals, to be aware of unusual
acting animals, and to keep pets vaccinated against rabies,” said Holly Holt.
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. DOH-Walton works
with Walton County Animal Control in responding to incidents of animal bites, tests animals for rabies
through the Department of Health state laboratory, and quarantines animals as necessary. DOH- Walton
also provides rabies vaccinations to victims of animal bites, the only known effective treatment for
rabies prevention in humans.
The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies:
Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on
your property. If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for
the animal immediately and contact Walton County Animal Control at 850-892-8682.
Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.”
Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly
cared for or regularly vaccinated.
Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources such as
uncovered trash or litter.
Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear
friendly.
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 and pets.
Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical
attention and report the injury to the DOH- Walton at 850-892-8021.

For further information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-andconditions/rabies/index.html, or contact DOH-Walton at 850-892-8021.
The Department protects, promotes and improves the health of all people in Florida through integrated
state, county and community efforts. Follow the Department on Twitter at
@HealthyFla and on
Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit
www.floridahealth.gov.
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