TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Tallahassee residents were eager to learn about rabies and how to prevent it on World Rabies Day, Sept. 28.
Rabies is a viral disease that is often found in wildlife animals like raccoons and foxes, but can be found among domestic animals and humans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the disease attacks the central nervous system causing the brain to be infected with the disease and within days, death.
“The rabies virus is actually a deadly virus and by the time an infected animal or an infected person is showing symptoms of the disease it is fatal. There is no treatment to cure it, so it is something we really have to deal with through prevention,” said Rachel Barton, a Veterinarian for City of Tallahassee animal services.
The symptoms for the early stage of rabies include headaches and fevers, whereas the latter stages include insomnia, paralysis, hallucinations, confusion, and hydrophobia, the fear of water.
Although rabies is found mostly in “developing countries like Asia, India, and Africa”, according to sanfordhealth.org, there have also been cases of the disease in Tallahassee.
An animal control officer for the City of Tallahassee, Darin Kimberl, said most cases within the past few years were cats that had become infected, and there are a few of those cases every year.
“Rabies is alive and well in the city of Tallahassee, Leon County. It’s almost exclusively in the wildlife particularly because of the state law we enforce,” Kimberl said.
Florida has a law that orders pet owners within the state to get their pets vaccinated to prevent outbreaks of the disease. Mary Gilbert, a local pet owner, just recently took her dog to get vaccinated. She said that she had “never” encountered an animal with rabies, but wanted to be safe.
Once pets are vaccinated, the city of Tallahassee wants owners to take extra precautions to identify that their pets have been vaccinated.
“It is state law for dogs, cats, and ferrets four years of age and under to be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian. In the city of Tallahassee, we go a little bit further by stating that the animals wear a current rabies, vaccination, tag,” Kimberl said.
Rabies is contracted mostly through dog bites, but there are other ways to become infected.
“It is through saliva contact, so through biting, spitting and getting into the mucus membranes. It’s got to break the skin and open wounds or something, but biting is the primary route of transmission,” Kimberl said.
Barton said that the city is constantly looking for new ways to inform the community about rabies and rabies prevention, but residents learn what they should do in case they ever see an animal with rabies.
Animal Control advises anyone who suspects they have seen an animal with rabies to call Animal Control immediately.