Rabies alert issued for Panama City Beach

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A rabies alert has been issued for Panama City Beach.

On Tuesday, a raccoon entered a building at Frank Brown Park. That raccoon has tested positive for rabies.

Florida Health says a raccoon that was killed in the neighborhood immediately northwest of the intersection of Highway 79 and Panama City Beach Parkway also tested positive for rabies in February.

The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Bay County. Issued alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public.

The rabies alert is for 60 days and includes the following area boundaries in Bay County:
— West of Pier Park Drive
— North of the Gulf of Mexico to timberland
— East of Cobb Road

An animal with rabies can infect a human by bite or claw scratch. Florida Health is asking people to avoid physical contact with wild animals. They say raccoons, bats, domestic cats, and foxes are the animals most frequently testing positive for rabies in Florida. Any warm blooded mammal can be infected with rabies.

Unvaccinated dogs and cats in the area should not be outdoors without direct and continuous supervision. Florida law requires all dogs and cats 4 months of age or older be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian against rabies.

Pet food left outside unattended attracts and increases the raccoon population in an area. This increases the likelihood diseases like rabies will be transmitted. Intentionally placing food or garbage, allowing the placement of food or garbage, or offering food or garbage in such a manner that it attracts raccoons is illegal in Florida.

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure, will protect an exposed person from the disease.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. Seek 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 Control at (850) 767-3333 and report the animal’s location. In Lynn Haven, call the Lynn Haven Police Department at (850) 265-1112.

Rabies is preventable when treatment is provided in a timely manner.