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Rabies Surveillance (Animal Bites)

Environmental Health

The Rabies Prevention and Surveillance Investigation program helps stop the spread of rabies in the community by investigating animal bites and scratches to humans and pet animals. Although rare, people may get rabies from a rabid animal if saliva gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth or an opened wound.

Please call Animal Control at 772-226-3485, or if you are in the City of Vero Beach, call 772-978-4600, to report a bite or scratch from a wild or domestic animal.

Any mammal can get rabies. Rabies in raccoons and other wildlife is considered endemic throughout Florida. Raccoons, foxes, and bats represent the greatest number of rabies cases in Florida wildlife. Among domestic animals reported, rabid cats outnumber any other domestic species, and in recent years are similar in number to rabid foxes. Most rabies found in foxes, bobcats, otters, and unvaccinated cats, dogs, horses, and livestock has been found to be raccoon rabies and presents a unique control problem.

Florida Department of Healht in Indian River County's environmental health section staff work closely with county and city animal control officers to investigate animal bite cases and submit necessary specimens to the state laboratory for testing.

Although human rabies is fatal, deaths are rare because of public health intervention and post exposure treatment. The estimated public health costs associated with disease detection, prevention and control have risen, exceeding $300 million annually in the United States.

It is recommended that animal control officers, veterinary personnel, laboratory workers and those handling wildlife receive pre-exposure prophylaxis.

You can prevent exposure and control the spread of rabies by doing the following:

  • Get pets vaccinated
  • Do NOT let pets run free
  • Do NOT pet or feed stray, feral or wild animals

image of raccoons eating from food dish outside

If your pet 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.

For more information, please visit the Florida Department of Health Rabies webpage or view the Department of Health's Division of Disease Control and Health Protection's Rabies Prevention and Control in Florida, 2014 guide.

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