The Flagler County Health Department, a state agency, today issued a rabies alert for Bunnell and the Korona community in response to a raccoon that tested positive on Tuesday (Feb. 9) after attacking a dog. It is the first such alert in Flagler in over a decade.
The recent rabies alert is for 60 days. The center of the alert is near Old Cemetery Road in Korona, an unincorporated community north northeast of Favoretta on US 1 and south of Bunnell. Rabies can be fatal in animals and humans if left untreated and the virus attacks the brain and the nervous system.
The dog in the Korona case had been vaccinated for rabies but is nevertheless quarantined at home for the next 45 days, according to Amy Carotenuto of the Flagler Humane Society. “This is just a big commercial for–people should vaccinate their pets,” Carotenuto said. Had the dog not been vaccinated, the quarantine would have lasted four months, assuming the animal showed no signs of rabies. Once the animal shows signs, it is too late, Carotenuto said.
Deaths from rabies in the United States are rare–about two a year or less–thanks to vaccination programs and the rapid reactions of animal control and public health agencies, as was the case this week. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure, will protect an exposed person from the disease.
Still, between 30,000 and 60,000 people are treated preventatively each year after potential exposure, and hundreds of thousands of animals are quarantined, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While rabies in dogs has essentially been eliminated in the United States–except in cases when dogs are bitten–the disease is still transmitted to other animals or to humans by bats and raccoons, the two main culprits of continuing transmission.
Foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes are also potential carriers, though in a 10-year span of human cases of rabies infecting Americans, bats were the overwhelming cause, with raccoons second. Several Americans have been infected by dogs, but only while living or visiting abroad.
As for animals, the CDC reports that 63 rabid dogs were reported in 2018–the last year for which numbers are available–an increase from the 62 reported the previous year, with Texas, Puerto Rico and Georgia accounting for more than half the cases. But more cats than dogs were reported rabid, with 241 in 2018, and just 33 cattle were reported rabid–all after bites from other rabid animals.
All residents and visitors in Flagler County should be aware that rabies is present in those common animals, the Health Department cautions, and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in parts of southern Flagler County. Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not get a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert. The last rabies alert the Flagler Health Department issued was in February 2010.
All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided.
Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
- Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not encounter wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Flagler Animal Services at 386-246-8612.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
- Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. That guidance applies to feral cats, and is often ignored, though those who adopt feral cats tend to get them readily vaccinated.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. This includes playgrounds in parks and at schools where rabid animals may approach children.
- 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 Flagler County at 386-313-7101.
For further information on rabies, go here or call the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County at 386-437-7358, or 386-246-8612.
Rocky Racoon says
And Rocky said, “Doc, it’s only a scratch
And I’ll be better, I’ll be better, Doc, as soon as I am able”