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Rabies is a deadly disease that attacks the nervous system. The virus only infects mammals (warm-blooded animals who nurse their young). This means pets, livestock, wildlife and people are at risk.

Rabies is carried mainly by wild animals. Those most commonly affected include raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and bats. Stray dogs, cats and ferrets are also a problem.

How is rabies spread? When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or the animal’s nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.

What do rabid animals look like? Animals with rabies may show strange behavior — they can be aggressive, attacking for no apparent reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). They may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. They may drool because they cannot swallow their saliva. They may stagger or become paralyzed. Eventually they will die.

Protect yourself and your family. Avoid contact with all wild animals — never try to feed or handle any wild animal. Stay away from strays and other people’s pets. They may not have been properly vaccinated.

Know what to do if you are bitten. Wash the wound thoroughly with warm, soapy water. If the animal is wild, confine it if you can safely do so. Call animal services at once. Kill the animal only as a last resort. Do not damage its head.

Call your health-care provider at once.

Report the bite to the Lake County Health Department at (352) 253-6130 or Lake County Animal Services at (352) 343-9688.

Oral Vaccine Baiting Program

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Health and other state, federal and local partners initiated a program to vaccinate wild raccoons in the central western region of Florida with oral rabies vaccine.

The vaccine is contained in a covering of fishmeal with a polymer additive that acts as a binding agent. The bait is not harmful to pets or livestock should they find and eat one. Because additional baits may have been dropped nearby, check the area and relocate them where raccoons may find them.

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