Protect yourself and your pets from rabies

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- The County of Santa Rosa issued a press release on Nov. 16 reporting that rabies had been confirmed in a raccoon that had bitten a dog. The dog was not vaccinated against rabies, and will remain under quarantine at a veterinary office for six months at the owner's expense.

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system and is carried in the saliva of infected animals. Wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats are the most common carriers of the disease. Infected animals may appear sick or lethargic, and may have problems swallowing or drool excessively. A wild animal may appear tamer than usual while some animals may have no symptoms at all.

It is important to protect yourselves and your pets by making sure that your pets have current vaccinations. Florida law requires rabies vaccination for dogs, cats and ferrets, and the Hurlburt Field Housing Brochure states that all pets living in base housing must be up-to-date on vaccines.

In addition to vaccination, the Santa Rosa County Health Department advises the following precautions:

- Avoid all contact with wild and unfamiliar domesticated animals.
- Do not place feeders in the yard - the food will attract unwanted animals, such as raccoons and foxes.
- Bring in pet food at night and secure trash cans with fasteners, or place trash containers in the garage.
- Do not leave pets outside unsupervised and do not allow them to roam free.
- Cover bird feeders. Most squirrel-proof coverings also deter wild animals.

If bitten or scratched by a wild animal or stray domesticated animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention. If you see a sick animal in your area, call PAWS in Okaloosa County at (850) 224-0196. If you are in Santa Rosa County, call Animal Services at (850) 983-4680. For further questions regarding animal bites or rabies contact the Hurlburt Field Public Health flight at (850) 881-4756.

For further information see the Santa Rosa County Health Department press release at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/chdsantarosa/Documents/PIO_Release_11-2011_RabiesPrecautions.pdf