Zephyrhills on high alert for rabies

A cat has tested positive for rabies in the southeastern part of Pasco County, putting Zephyrhills on alert for the disease.

The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County says domestic animals are at risk if they are not vaccinated, especially if there is any chance they could come into contact with a wild animal.

The alert last until mid-May, and covers an area west of U.S. 301, south of Fairview Heights Road, east of River Glen Boulevard, and north of the area just one mile south of Chancey Road.

Rabies is a viral condition that causes inflammation of the brain, and is typically fatal once symptoms start to appear. It ca be transmitted through bites and scratches, and a human infection requires immediate medical care.

An animal with rabies could infect other wild animals or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against the disease. Domestic animals should be vaccinated, and all wildlife contact should be avoided, officials said, especially with raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is a rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization.

The Department of Health also recommends:

* Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
* If a pet is bitten by a wild animals, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.
* Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals by leaving pet food outside, or garbage cans open.
* Never adopt wild animals or bring them into a 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 into contact with people and pets.
* If someone is bitten by any animal, seek care promptly. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and visit a doctor or hospital for immediate medical attention.
* Report animal bites and scratches to Pasco County Animal Services at (727) 834-3216, (813) 929-1212, or (352) 521-5194.
* For concerns about wild animals, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (863) 648-3203.

For more information on rabies, call (352) 521-1350, ext. 344.

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