Rabid raccoon caught in Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A raccoon caught between Cherry Street Elementary and Holy Nativity Episcopal School in the Cove area of Panama City has tested positive for rabies.

Officials with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Bay County said this is the first laboratory confirmed rabid animal of 2018.

In 2017, two Panama City Beach raccoons and a Panama City kitten tested positive for rabies.

Officials are reminding residents Florida law requires all dogs and cats over four months of age to be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian.

They said dogs and cats are at risk for rabies if they fight with an infected animal or chew up a bat. Unvaccinated animals should not be outside unsupervised.

They also recommend feeding dogs and cats indoors to avoid attracting wildlife.

Rabies is a fatal viral infection of the nervous system that is transmitted from animal to animal and animal to human by bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to infected saliva. Humans should avoid physical contact with wild animals and stray or unvaccinated domestic animals.

If bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. eek medical treatment as needed and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Bay County at (850) 872-4455. If the animal is stray or wild, call 911 or Bay County Animal Services at (850) 767-3333 and report the animal’s location. In the City of Lynn Haven, call the Lynn Haven Police Department at (850) 265-1112. Rabies is preventable when treatment is provided in a timely manner.

The DOH offers the following advice:

- Secure outside garbage in covered containers to avoid attracting wild animals.
- Do not leave pet food outside overnight as this attracts wild animals to your home and increases the chance of a pet-raccoon conflict.
- If your dog or cat fights with a wild animal, contact the Florida Department of Health in Bay County immediately. The wild animal will need to be tested for rabies. Your animal may need to be quarantined. Do not shoot suspected rabid animals in the head.
- Do not touch animals that are not yours. Avoid contact with all wildlife, especially raccoons, bats, bobcats, otters, foxes, skunks and coyotes. No animal is too young to have rabies. A rabid animal may act friendly.
- Wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear when dressing/butchering wild animals to avoid exposure to rabies and other diseases. Cook all meat thoroughly to 165 degrees.
- For general questions pertaining to stray animals or odd acting wild animals, contact your area’s animal control department.
- For questions regarding the health of a pet, contact a veterinarian.
- Teach your children about rabies and to NEVER TOUCH A BAT!