Rabies present in Indian River County after individual, cat attacked by raccoon

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INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Health officials warned residents to stay away from wildlife and stray animals after a rabies raccoon attacked someone and their cat over Memorial Day weekend.

The attack occurred on May 29, and the raccoon tested positive for the deadly virus on June 2, according to the Florida Department of Health in Indian River.

Spokeswoman Stacy Brock said she could not provide details on the person, but said the raccoon contacted them and the cat died from it.

Brock said the person is on preventative treatment for the virus.

The state health agency issued the warning Thursday for a 15-mile stretch of Orchid Island between County Road 510 in Wabasso and Round Island Park near the St. Lucie County Line.

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Brock said all residents should be careful, even if they are outside the alert limit, as the virus is active in the county’s wildlife population.

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a raccoon or free range cat in this area in the past two weeks is urged to contact the health department.

The agency urged pet owners to vaccinate their pets and keep animals indoors or on a leash and avoid feeding pets outside so that wild animals are not lured into yards.

“We strongly advise residents not to approach or feed any wild and stray animals and vaccinate and restrain their pets against rabies,” Miranda Hawker County Health Officer said in a prepared statement.

Animals specifically listed as avoidable by the agency were raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes.

According to the agency, outdoor cats are also at risk because they interact with wild animals as a source of food.

The agency asked anyone who was bitten or scratched by wild animals or domestic animals to undergo a medical examination and report the incident to the animal control department.

Who can you turn to

Indian River County Animal Control: 772-226-4799

Vero Beach City Police Department: 772-978-4600

More information on rabies

Florida Department of Health in Indian River County: 772-794-7440.

Florida Department of Health website: http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html

How to protect yourself from the rabies virus

  • If you are bitten or scratched by wild animals or pets, seek medical advice and report the exposure to local animal control immediately.
  • Do not touch, feed, or accidentally attract any wild or stray animals, including cats, by leaving pet food outside or leaving trash cans open.
  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • Don’t let your pets run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets safe on your property.
  • If your pet is bitten by a wild, stray, or unfamiliar animal, see a veterinarian immediately and report the incident to your local animal welfare agency.
  • Call your local animal welfare agency directly to remove wild or stray animals from your neighborhood that are injured or exhibiting unusual behavior.
  • Do not treat, adopt, or bring any wild animals into your home. Instead of trying to care for injured or sick wild or stray animals, call Animal Control for help.
  • Teach children never to interact with strange animals, whether wild or domesticated, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering residential or occupied rooms in homes, churches, schools, and similar areas where they could come into contact with people and pets.
  • Sterilize or neuter your pets to reduce the number of unwanted pets who may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

Corey Arwood is a news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyarwood or call him at 772-978-2246.