Last month, a human rabies case and fatality was reported in Highlands County, the first human case of rabies acquired in Florida since 1948.
Today, the Florida Department of Health reported that from Jan. 1 to Sep. 30, 60 animal rabies cases were reported across the state. Twenty-six cases were reported in raccoons, followed by bats (16), cats (9), foxes (6), skunks (2) and one dog.
Alachua County has seen 5 animal rabies cases making it the county with the most.
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes.
According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.
Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.
Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptoms then progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.
Worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually.
Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.
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