The Florida Department of Health warns that bats are a source of the spread of rabies.

BARTOW – In a disturbing and potentially deadly trend, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Section has discovered a third positive rabies case in Polk County so far this year, so the office is issuing a warning to residents and pet owners to be very cautious. Three stray dogs have already been quarantined as a result of this investigation.
Animal Control confirmed on Tuesday, March 20, that the rabies case had been found. It happened following the killing of a raccoon at a home in Bartow.
On Saturday, March 17, those three stray dogs came onto the property located 5445 Flood Court in Bartow. The dogs had been chasing the raccoon, and together they attacked and killed it.
“ The people living in the home called Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, in her report on this incident.
The Animal Control officer found the dead raccoon’s body, and, as a safety precaution, also captured and impounded the three stray dogs.
The raccoon’s body was sent to the State Laboratory for testing. The results from those tests were delivered to Animal Control on Tuesday.
“They confirm the raccoon tested positive for the rabies virus,” Eleazer noted.
According to the Florida Department of Health, rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented — but there is no cure for those who contract it.
The virus attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals, including people.
“Protect your pets, yourself, and your family,” DOH advises on its Web site.
The three stray dogs that killed the raccoon got placed into quarantine at Animal Control’s Bartow office.
“The residents at that address have put their own dog and cat into home quarantine as a precaution,” Eleazer noted.
She also pointed out that Polk County residents should keep in mind that bats and raccoons are among the mammals considered to be high risk species — or “rabies vector species.”
“Please do not approach any animal which is acting in an unusual or suspicious manner,” Eleazer noted. Anyone who thinks they or one of their pets may have been exposed to a rapid animal are urged to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Section at 863-499-2600.
DOH says rabies can be avoided by taking some simple steps, including avoiding direct contact with wild animals; having your veterinarian vaccinate pets and any livestock you own that might potentially be at risk of exposure to another rabid animal; preventing your pets from running free by following leash laws; never feeding any wild or stray animals, which can attract those with rabies as well; and taking steps to avoid attracting animals that might be looking for with outdoors food sources, such as uncooked trash.
“Feed your pets indoors,” DOH recommends, and adds, “If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, do not examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. Do 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 handled by animal control or county health department staff.”
They also recommend that homeowners take steps to learn how to bat-proof their home.

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