Rabies detected in a bobcat in Venice on Dec. 30; two bobcat attacks reported

Health Department and Sheriff’s Office advising all county residents to be alert about any contact with wild animals

Bobcats are common in Sarasota County and other parts of the Southeastern United States. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah National Park via Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) received laboratory confirmation on Dec. 30, 2016 of rabies in a bobcat, the department has announced.

Health officials say two bobcat attacks occurred within 4 miles of one another in east Venice, between Venice Avenue and U.S. 41, approximately 2 miles west of River Road, the department reported in a news release. As a result, the release adds, a Rabies Alert is in effect for 60 days for Venice and North Port.

“All residents, especially in this vicinity, should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated,” the news release warns. “The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Sarasota County. Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not give a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert,” the release adds.

Rabies is caused by a virus, which humans and other mammals can get through an animal bite, the release explains. In Florida, rabies is usually associated with bites or scratches from raccoons, bats, foxes and unvaccinated cats that live outdoors. The virus can spread through contact with saliva or the nervous system tissue of a rabid animal. It can enter a human or another mammal through an open wound, the mouth, nose or eyes, the release points out. “Rabies is nearly always fatal,” the release stresses, if the victim does not received immediate and proper medical assistance. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization, which should be started soon after the exposure to protect an exposed person from the disease, the release says.

People are encouraged not to keep pet food outside, to secure all garbage containers and to keep pets under supervision, the release continues. “If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services Section at 861-9500,” the release adds. “If you see or are approached by what appears to be an aggressive or ill animal, maintain a safe distance and contact law enforcement immediately,” the release notes: Dial 911 or the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 316-1201.

Hunters should harvest only game that appears to be healthy, they should wear rubber or latex gloves when dressing carcasses, and they should wash their hands afterwards, the release points out.

“If a domestic or wild animal bites or scratches you, seek care promptly,” the release advises. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and running water for five to 10 minutes. Immediately visit your primary doctor, hospital or county health department for medical attention. Report an animal bite to DOH-Sarasota at 861-6133, the release says.

For more information on rabies, visit the Florida Department of Health website at http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html or call the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County Environmental Health office at 861-6133 or the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services Division at 861-9500.