JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health in Duval County issued a reminder Monday for everyone to avoid contact with stray animals after someone was exposed to a rabid bat.
According to a release from the Department of Health, residents were urged to avoid contact with wild and stray animals to better protect themselves from the risk of rabies exposure. The Jacksonville resident who was exposed to the virus required post-exposure treatment and vaccinations.
News4Jax has learned that the person bitten by the bat was a lifeguard at Naval Station Mayport. Base spokesman Bill Austin said the man though the bat was dead and when to pick it up when it bit him.
The lifeguard was taken to a hospital for a rabies treatment and is fine.
The Department of Health pointed out that the rabies virus can cause death in humans and other mammals. The virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain, resulting in death if not treated quickly.
"It's nothing to mess around with. It's no joke. You have to go seek medical care immediately," said Dr. Susan Shelton with St. Francis Animal Hospital. "Often times you might have heard of things like they’re afraid of water, they may be foaming at the mouth. Generally what you’re going to see is just an animal that’s inappropriate, so neurologically or mentally inappropriate -- might be running around in circles.”
According to the Department of Health, the majority of rabies cases occur in animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and feral cats. Steps people can take to protect themselves and animals include:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
- Do not allow pets to run free.
- Do not handle, feed or attract animals with outdoor food sources like uncovered trash or litter.
- Teach children not to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
HELPFUL LINK: Rabies FAQ
If bitten or scratched by an animal, the Department of Health advises people to seek medical attention and report the injury by calling (904) 253-2567.