A rabies positive cat in the Winter Park, FL area has prompted an alert from the Florida Department of Health in Orange County.

According to a tweet Thursday, the alert is for the Formosa Ave & Biscayne Dr. area in Winter Park. Health officials say the cat may have infected other animals in the area.

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. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavy concentrations of bats.

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.

In humans, initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms 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.

Rabies: What should you do if you’re exposed?

The Florida Department of Health gives the following recommendations on how to protect your family and pets from rabies:

o Make sure you have your dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated against rabies, and to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for revaccination.
o If you have a farm or ranch, ensure your horses and cattle are also vaccinated.
o Avoid contact with wild animals, never feed wild or stray animals
o Do not leave your pet’s food outside. Keep lids on garbage cans.
o If you have a pet door, ensure that it can be closed at night (skunks are notorious for coming into homes this way).
o Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws.
o If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. Wash your pet with soap and water to remove saliva from the attacking animal. Do not let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be dealt with by Animal Control or the County Health Department.

DOH Orange County says if you have been bitten/scratched, seek medical attention & call Animal Services 407-254-9150.