Rabies Rates Highest in Bay County

PANAMA CITY-- So far one cat and 3 raccoons have tested positive in Bay County this year. That is enough to concern county health officials.

"It's pretty much the only condition that is going to kill you if your pet exposes you to it. It's one of the first vaccinations you want to make sure your pet is current on," said Michael Templin of the Health Department.

Florida law requires all pet owners keep animals up to date on vaccinations. For rabies, that means one every 1 to 3 years.

"An UN-vaccinated animal is either euthanized or quarantined for 6 months. Whereas a vaccinated animal is boosted and quarantined for 45 days, and usually at home. So there is a big difference," said Templin.

Rabies attacks the nervous system and brain, changing the behavior in animals.

It may walk in circles like it's dizzy. It may be laying in an unusual place like by the road instead of the property. Really if you just notice anything that appears different," said Animal Control officer Shane Williams.

Last year Bay County had more rabies cases than any in the state.

"Bay County is a pretty wild place, you don't have to go very far to end up in a pine forest or in a marine shoreline environment which raccoons really like," said Templin.

One side effect of rabies is that raccoons are less timid around humans. Health officials warn you against feeding them, or any other wild animals.