Rabies alert expanded to entire county after more unprovoked attacks

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Indian River County Health Department has expanded its rabies alert to include the entire county after another incident of an unprovoked raccoon attack on a person in north county.

Within the past month, there have been five unprovoked raccoon attacks on humans. Only two of the raccoons were captured and both tested positive for rabies. Additionally, a stray/feral cat associated with human exposures tested positive for rabies.


The health department is advising residents to avoid wild or stray animals that can carry rabies. Wild animals (e.g., skunks, raccoons and bats) behaving abnormally – such as attempting to interact with or attack pets, stumbling, or acting disoriented – should be reported to the following:

In Indian River County –

(Weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.):  Indian River County Animal Control at (772) 226-3485, ext. 1446, or

(Weekends and after hours):  911

Within Vero Beach City Limits –

Vero Beach Police Department:  (772) 978-4600

“Be aware of wildlife around you and avoid contact with wild animals.  It is unusual for wild animals to attack humans,” said Cheryl Dunn, Health Department Environmental manager. “So, if you are attacked by a wild animal, report the bite or scratch to animal control and seek medical attention.”

The Indian River County Health Department offers the following advice when dealing with encounters with wild animals:

Seek care promptly after any animal bites you. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and running water for five to ten minutes. Go to your family doctor, hospital or county health department for medical attention immediately.

Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild or stray animals (including cats) with open garbage cans.

Enjoy wild animals (raccoons, skunks, foxes) from afar.

Do not feed birds or your pets outdoors.

Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. Do not try to nurse sick animals to health. Call animal control for assistance.

Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.

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.

Be a responsible pet owner:

Keep vaccinations up to date for all dogs, cats, and ferrets. This requirement is important not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for you, if your animal is bitten by a rabid wild animal.

Don’t use your hands to break up a fight between animals.

Keep your pets under direct supervision and leashed so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.

Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood. They may be unvaccinated and could be infected by the disease.

The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle, and dogs most often reported rabid. Dogs and cats over four months of age are required to be vaccinated against rabies and wear a current rabies license tag. Pet ferrets should also be vaccinated.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented but not cured. The virus is spread through saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite.

Infection may also occur if the saliva enters open wounds, the mouth, or eyes of another animal or person.

There is no treatment for rabies after symptoms of the disease appear. However, the rabies vaccine regimen provides immunity to rabies when given after an exposure or for protection before an exposure occurs.

Although rabies among humans is rare in the United States, every year an estimated 18,000 people receive rabies pre-exposure vaccinations, and an additional 40,000 receive vaccinations after being exposed to rabies.

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