RABIES ALERT: Florida Dept. of Health Issues Alert After Cat Bites Person in Local County

Uncovering Florida

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A Florida county is under a 60-day rabies alert following a confirmed case of rabies, a press release issued by the Florida Health Department of Citrus County on March 14 confirmed.

"The Florida Department of Health in Citrus County (DOH-Citrus) has issued a rabies alert for the Whispering Oaks area of South Floral City," it stated, in part. "This is in response to a feral cat that tested positive on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. The cat was tested after it bit a person on the same day."

The alert is to make residents and visitors aware that rabies is active in the county, and potentially outside of the alert areas as well.

"The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Citrus County."

According to the release, the center of this rabies alert is at the intersection of South Hewitt Point and East Rodglyn Lane and includes the following boundaries in Citrus County:

  • North boundary – Floral Park Drive
  • East boundary – Withlacoochee River
  • South boundary – South County Line
  • West boundary – South Turner Avenue

This confirmation comes only shortly after two other confirmed rabies cases in the state this year. One in Hillsborough County, also from a stray cat, dated February 16, and another in Duval County, from a raccoon, dated January 30. As a result of the short timespan, all three counties remain under their respective rabies alerts.

Fatal in over 99% of cases, an article published in 2019 by the Center for Disease Control states that rabies is one of the world's deadliest diseases. "Rabies virus infection, regardless of the variant or animal reservoir, is fatal in over 99% of cases, making it one of the world’s most deadly diseases. There is no treatment once signs or symptoms of the disease begin, and the disease is fatal in humans and animals within 1–2 weeks of symptom onset."

Avoiding rabies is of paramount importance and the Citrus County release included the following list of best practices to avoid potential exposure:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
  • Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property. If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Unit at 352-726-1121.
  • Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.
  • Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
  • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources such as uncovered trash or litter.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the DOH-Citrus at 352-527-0068

The Citrus County release noted that the person who was bit by the stray cat is now undergoing postexposure treatment.

All current and past Florida rabies press releases can be found here.

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