Rabies facts and caution: Dangerous disease strikes near home

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On Wednesday May 15, a little girl in Pasco got bit by a bat two times. She got bit on her back, on her left shoulder and in the middle of her back.

What is rabies you might ask? Rabies is a viral infection of the nervous system. If you leave it untreated, an exposure to the rabies virus is almost always fatal. Each year rabies kills more than 50,000 people and millions of animals around the world. Rabies is a big problem in Asia, Africa, central and South America. In the United States, r0abies has been reported in every state except Hawaii.

Who gets rabies? Any warm blooded animal can get rabies. Raccoons, bats, domestic cats, foxes, bobcats, skunks, and otters are the animals most often found infected with rabies in Florida. Rabies can also infect coyotes, wolves, dogs, ferrets, horses, farm animals, other animals, and humans. Reptiles and fish do not get rabies.
You can get rabies through saliva.  Another animal or human can be infected if the rabid animal bites or scratches them or if virus laden saliva immediately contacts a mucous membrane or broken skin. The virus can also be found in other tissues of the rabid animal. A person with sores or cuts on their hands can be infected while butchering an infected animal. Hunters should wear rubber gloves and eye protection when handling and butchering any wild mammal.

You can avoid getting rabies by:
• Keep your pets currently vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
• Do not handle wild or stray animals. Never touch a bat!
• If you see a wild or stray animal that is acting aggressively or strangely, call the animal control agency for your area.
• Do not feed raccoons! Feeding raccoons is illegal. Do not leave pet food outside and keep your garbage securely covered to avoid attracting raccoons and other wildlife to your home.
• Get your pets spayed and neutered.
Be careful when you handle stray animals. If you touch the animal, make sure to wash your hands right after. If you get bit by an animal that has rabies, make sure you wash your wounds immediately with soap and water and contact a doctor to start treatment for the disease right away.

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