Health department issues warnings after raccoon tests positive for rabies in Marion County

A raccoon in the Sparr/Anthony area has tested positive for rabies.

According to the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, the animal was tested for the virus after an interaction with a domestic animal earlier this week.

Health department officials are advising anyone who lives in that area to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in the community, particularly those who live north of Northeast/Northwest 100th Street, south of County Road 316, east of U.S. Highway 301 and west of County Road 200A.

An animal carrying rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not received a vaccination, health department officials warn.

Also, the department says, residents living in other portions of the Sunshine State shouldn’t get a false sense of security if their area has not been named.

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to humans and warm-blooded animals. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect a person from the disease, which claimed the lives of two Florida residents in 2017.

People who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Marion County at (352) 644 2713. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek immediate veterinary assistance for the animal and contact Marion County Animal Services at (352) 671 8727.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

• Avoid all contact with wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes. Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.

• Teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.

• Do not feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or trash.

• Keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all pets.

• Keep pets under direct supervision so they do not come into contact with wild animals.

• Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools and other similar areas where they might encounter people and pets.

For more information on rabies, call the Florida Department of Health in Marion County at (352) 629 0137 or Marion County Animal Services at (352) 671 8727. Or got to www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies.

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