ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health in Duval County County has issued a rabies alert for Jacksonville's beaches area.
The alert, which is in effect through Aug. 11, includes Jacksonville Beach, from the northern border of Neptune Beach to the 26th Avenue South out to the Intracoastal Waterway.
The area goes from Osceola Avenue at Blue Heron Lane to Seagate Avenue at Penman Road to the Intracoastal Waterway at Beach Boulevard and to the Atlantic Ocean at Beach Boulevard.
The alert comes after a woman said she was attacked by a cat in the Atlantic Beach area and had to be treated for rabies.
Cheyenne Slade, 19, said she is a cat lover, so when she saw stray cats in an Atlantic Beach neighborhood, she didn't think twice.
“I started petting the cat, and it was over kind of perched on a fence, and then I was petting it, and it was fine,” Slade said.
But then the cat attacked her.
“It jumped over the fence, and then it clawed my arm, and then it bit me,” Slade said. “It was trying to bite me again.”
Slade has been to the doctor twice and will have to go two more times. She said they are treating her for rabies, even though they can't confirm that's what she has.
“I got like 20 shots,” she said. “I got 18 around my bite, and then I had to actually get them in other places because my arm couldn’t take it.”
Rabies exposure in humans can be deadly if not treated immediately.
Slade said she called Animal Control, which went to the neighborhood where she was attacked, but it's unclear if the cat was found.
Neighbors said there has been a problem with people feeding the stray cats.
"I am very concerned that there is a rabies alert. It is worrisome for not only myself but my family as well," said Beth Sullivan, who worked in a veterinary clinic for a decade and knows the dangers of rabies. "It is scary. It is a very horrible thing to come in contact with."
According to the health department, there were a total 43 possible rabies exposure cases reported this year in the area of Clay, Duval, Flagler and St. Johns counties.
Anyone bitten by a rabid animal must get a series of vaccines, which can save their life.
Slade said she loves animals, especially cats, but she is warning everyone.
“I would call someone who can get the animals instead of touching them,” she said.
Stray animals should be reported to local animal control or the city and not approached.
The Health Department also suggests the following advice:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets
- If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Florida Department of Health in Duval County at (904) 253-1280.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
- 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 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 Florida Department of Health in Duval County.