Miami-Dade Rabies Alert: What You Need to Know

Health officials have set off the first rabies alert in the area in 16 years after two rabid raccoons were found in Miami-Dade County.

For the next 60 days, the designated area where the spread of the disease is possible is from Sunset Drive (72nd Avenue) south to Southwest 128th Street, and from the Florida Turnpike east to Southwest 87th Avenue, according to the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade.

Officials say that residents can best protect themselves by making sure their pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and by avoiding wild animals. The rabies virus is preventable, but can be fatal within days after infecting the central nervous system, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, health officials reported that a rabid raccoon — the first confirmed in the county since 2001 — had tested positive for rabies after being captured near the campus of Miami Dade College in Kendall. Lab tests confirmed Saturday that a second raccoon killed by a car in Kendall carried the virus.

Residents in and around the designated high-risk area are encouraged to stay away from any wild animals, including bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes. Residents should call 311 if they think an animal is rabid or if their pet is bitten.

The Florida Health Department says that “outside cats,” or strays, are by far the most common domestic animal found to have rabies in the state of Florida. That’s primarily because they are often not kept up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Dogs, cats and ferrets are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies in the state of Florida.

How is rabies spread?

When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite.

What do rabid animals look like?

Animals that carry rabies can be aggressive, attacking people or other animals for no apparent reason. They may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. They may drool because they cannot swallow their saliva. They may stagger or become paralyzed. Eventually they will die.

What do I do if an animal bites me?
  • The Florida Health Department says that you should immediately scrub the wound with lots of soap and running water for five to ten minutes.
  • Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.
  • Try to get a complete description of the animal and determine where it is so that it can be picked up by animal control staff for quarantine or rabies testing.
  • Call your county health department or animal control agency with your description and location of the animal. The animal will either be quarantined for ten days (if it is a dog, cat or ferret) or be tested for rabies.
More guidance from health officials:
  • Keep pets under direct supervision at all times to ensure they do not come in contact with any wild animals.
  • If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, immediately seek veterinary assistance for the animal and contact Miami-Dade County Animal Services at 3-1-1.
  • Call Miami-Dade County Animal Services to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • Avoid contact with stray and feral animals.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.

For more information about the alert, call the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County at 305-324-2400.

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