JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Duval County’s first rabies alert of the year was issued for the Ortega area of Jacksonville after a family was exposed to a rabid bat.

According to the Health Department, the bat got into an Ortega home. Although it died before a trapper could arrive, because it tested positive and officials couldn't be certain it had not bitten anyone, the two adults and three children who live in the home were being given rabies vaccines.

The rabies alert area was issued for an area bordered on the north by Lancelot Lane at Water Oak Lane, on the south by St. Johns Avenue at Herschel Street, on the west by Lakeshore Boulevard at Fremont Street, and east at the St. Johns River.

As a precaution, pet owners should maintain control of their pets at all times and be certain that each has received current rabies immunization shots from a licensed veterinarian.

Rabies Alert

The rabies alert is in effect through May 6.

Eric White, who lives in Ortega, said he's not concerned that a rabid bat was found in his neighborhood.

"There's diseases, lots of animals, even with the pool in the backyard we see bats coming in all the time," White said.

"You do not want to handle them yourself. They are very nasty," said Tom Racer, who works for First Coast Wildlife Services. "When you do come face to face with the animals, it can make you a little nervous."

Two weeks ago, All-Starz Tire and Automotive in Orange Park called Racer to deal with a big bat problem in its building.

"We noticed an odd smell, and after an investigation we found a large number of bats," said Brown, of All-Starz.

"There were hundreds of bats lined up shoulder to shoulder, along the half-inch crevice, in the front of the building," Racer said.

Wildlife specialists sealed off the areas where the bats were getting in with steel mesh and used what's called a bat valve to get them out unharmed.

Stray animals should be reported to the city of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services at 904-630-2489. For further information or to report animal bites, contact Rabies Control at 904-253-1280.