NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (WFLA)-The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County (DOH-Pasco) reminds residents to be mindful of wild and stray animals that can carry rabies.   An animal with rabies could infect other wild animals or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. “Rabies is present in Pasco’s wild animal population and contact should be avoided.” says Mike Napier, County Health Officer “The best way to prevent rabies in your pets is to make sure rabies vaccinations are up to date.”

All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all stray animal and wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.  Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. 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.Prevention steps:

*             Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.

*             If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or a feral cat, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.

*             Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild, feral, or stray animals by leaving pet food outside, or garbage cans open.

*             Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.

*             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

*             If you are bitten by any animal seek care promptly.  Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.

*            Go to your family doctor or hospital for medical attention immediately.

*             Contact Pasco County Animal Services at (727) 834-3216, (813) 929-1212, or (352) 521-5194 to report animal bites or scratches.

*             Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-863-648-3203 for concerns about wild animals.