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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Rabies FAQs

Florida Department of Health - Highlands County

  •  863-386-6040
  •  

    Mailing Address

    7205 South George Boulevard Sebring, FL 33875 

     

     

Frequently Asked Questions:

How is rabies spread?  

When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or some of the animal's nerve tissue enters open wounds, the  mouth, nose, or eyes of another animal or person.

What do rabid animals look like?

Animals with rabies may show strange behavior. They may be aggressive, attacking for no apparent reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). They may not be able to eat, drink, or swallow.  They may drool because they have trouble swallowing. They may stagger or become paralyzed.  Rabies will kill most infected animals.

Which animals have been reported with rabies in Florida? 

In Florida, raccoons have been reported to have rabies most frequently, followed by bats and foxes. Since the 1980s, rabid cats have been reported more frequently than rabid dogs.  Rabid bobcats, skunks, otters, horses, cattle, and ferrets have also been reported. Rabbits, squirrels, hamsters, gerbils, rats, and other rodents are RARELY found to be infected, and have not been known to cause human rabies in Florida.

What do I do if an animal bites me? 

Immediately scrub the wound with lots of soap and running water for five to ten minutes. Try to get a complete description of the animal and determine where it is, so that it can be picked up by the animal control staff for quarantine or rabies testing. Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.  Call the Florida Department of Health in Highlands County at (863) 382-7224 or Highlands County Animal Control Services at (863) 655-6475 with a description and location of the animal. The animal will either be quarantined for ten days (if it is a dog, cat, or ferret), or be tested for rabies.  If you kill the animal, be careful not to damage the head, and avoid any further contact with the animal.

What can I do to protect myself, my family, and my pets from rabies?

Have your veterinarian vaccinate all of your dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian's instructions for revaccination. 

Avoid contact with wild or stray animals. Never feed wild or stray animals, and avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources, such as uncovered trash or outdoor pet feeding areas. Feed your pets indoors.

Do not allow your pets to run free.  Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.

Support animal control in your community.

If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray, or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves.  Wash your pet with soap and water to remove any saliva left by the attacking animal. Do not let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be dealt with by animal control or health department staff.

What is the treatment for people who have been exposed to rabies?

When a human is exposed to rabies, a risk assessment will be done by either your family physician or the emergency room doctor. If the assessment indicates a need for treatment, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with rabies vaccines will be given.

To report an animal bite or scratch, call the health department at (863) 382-7224.

To report stray dogs or cats, or for instructions regarding wild animals showing aggressive or unusual behavior, call Highlands County Animal Control at (863) 655-6475.