Rabies discovered in county

Published 8:59 pm Thursday, October 4, 2012

The discovery of a raccoon that has tested positive for rabies has prompted the Escambia County Health Department to warn area residents of the risks rabid animals pose to people.

Officials are urging county residents to make sure pets are vaccinated against the disease and are discouraging the contact with or handling of any wildlife or stray animals following the raccoon’s discovery Tuesday. The animal was submitted to Lee Veterinary Clinic in Atmore before being transferred to the Escambia County Health department and, ultimately, to the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories in Mobile, where it was confirmed to be positive for rabies.

Environmentalist Jason Gurganus, of the Escambia County Health Department, said local residents should take all measures possible to avoid contact with animals that could be suffering from rabies.

“Vaccination of domestic dogs and cats against rabies remains the best method of providing a protective buffer between wildlife rabies and humans,” Gurganus said.  “State law requires that dogs and cats three months of age and older be vaccinated for rabies annually.”

Gurganus said rabies is a disease of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and can be “universally fatal” to people who contract the disease if specialized anti-rabies treatment is not obtained immediately.

Raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks are most often responsible for transmitting the virus to domesticated animals and humans. The public should report any known or suspected exposure to wildlife and contact the Escambia County Health Department with any concerns.