POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The first rabies case of 2020 in Polk County means parts of the area are under a rabies alert for two more months.
“When we see an increased number of animals testing positive in a very short space of time, we extend that period,” said Dr. Liza Kublalsingh, an epidemiologist at the Polk County Department of Health.
Authorities say a fight broke out between a 2-year old Husky/Shepard mix and a rabid raccoon on North Galloway Road in north Lakeland on Sunday night.
“Kind of scary. I’ve never dealt with this situation before,” said Christine Brown, the dog’s owner. “We live out in the country and there’s a lot of wild animals.”
Brown and her husband woke up to her dog “Baby Girl” barking outside. They discovered the raccoon under the dog house.
“The dog dragged the raccoon out and she was going to kill it and then my husband finished,” said Brown.
The raccoon carcass was taken to the state laboratory in Tampa and tested positive for rabies.
Baby Girl was vaccinated and is under quarantine for 45 days
After a spike in rabies cases in Polk County last year, the Health Department wants residents to keep a heightened awareness of potentially rabid wild animals.
The rabies alert is in effect in Bartow, Loughman and Lakeland Highlands areas of Polk County (from West Bella Vista Street in the north, I-4 in the south and east and Walker Road/Swindell Road from the west).
“It is endemic in the wild animal population,” said Dr. Kublalsingh. “We’ve seen it in three raccoons in a really short space of time. So we’re advising people not to do anything to attract these wild animals. No feeding, or bringing them into your home.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported 11 cases of rabies last year. The tenth case involved a teenager in Davenport who was bitten after petting a rabid raccoon.
There were three cases reported in 2018.
“I truly believe it’s just people pay more attention and are reporting more often,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “We want people to be aware. We want people to report sick wildlife to us because we want to be able to protect the community first and certainly the community’s pets second.”
To protect your pets and livestock from contracting rabies, stay up to date on their vaccinations. If an animal gets rabies, there is no cure. It will have to be put down.
You should also follow leash laws so animals don’t wander.
Humans who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to DOH-Polk at (863) 519-8300.
For pets who have been bitten or scratched by a wild animal or to report unusual-acting animals, please contact Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control at (863) 499-2600.
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