INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Health officials warned residents to stay clear of wildlife and stray animals after a raccoon with rabies attacked someone and their cat over Memorial Day weekend.
The attack occurred May 29 and the raccoon tested positive for the deadly virus June 2, according to the Florida Department of Health in Indian River.
Spokeswoman Stacy Brock said she could not give details about the person, but said the raccoon did make contact with them and the cat died as a result.
Brock said the person was undergoing preventative treatment for the virus.
The state health agency issued the alert Thursday for a roughly 15-mile stretch of Orchid Island between County Road 510 in Wabasso and Round Island Park near the St. Lucie County line.
Raccoon tests positive:For rabies in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Jensen Beach
Bat with rabies:Found inside Treasure Coast Square Mall in Jensen Beach
Brock said all residents should be cautious even if they are outside of the alert boundary because the virus is active in the county’s wild animal population.
Anyone bit or scratched by a raccoon or outdoor cat in that area within the past two weeks is urged to contact the health department.
The agency urged pet owners to vaccinate their pets and keep animals inside or on a leash, and to avoid feeding pets outside so that wild animals are not attracted into yards.
“We strongly advise residents not to approach or feed wild and stray animals, and to keep their pets rabies vaccinated and restrained,” said County health officer Miranda Hawker in a prepared statement.
Animals specifically listed by the agency to avoid were raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.
Outside cats are also at risk, according to the agency, because they interact with wild animals as food sources.
The agency urged anyone bitten or scratched by any wild or domestic animal to get a medical evaluation and to report the incident to animal control.
Who to contact
Indian River County Animal Control: 772-226-4799
City of Vero Beach Police Department: 772-978-4600
For more information on rabies
Florida Department of Health in Indian River County: 772-794-7440.
Florida Department of Health website: http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/rabies/index.html
How to stay safe from rabies virus
- If bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals, seek medical attention and promptly report exposure to local animal control.
- Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild or stray animals, including cats, by leaving pet food outside or garbage cans open.
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
- Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets secured on your property.
- If your pet is bitten by a wild, stray, or unknown animal, seek veterinary assistance immediately and report the incident to your local animal control agency.
- Call your local animal control agency directly to remove any wild or stray animals from your neighborhood that are injured or demonstrate unusual behavior.
- Never handle, adopt, or bring wild animals into your home. Call animal control for assistance rather than trying to nurse injured or sick wild or stray animals.
- 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.
- Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.
Corey Arwood is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Corey on Twitter @coreyarwood, or reach him by phone at 772-978-2246.