Several people exposed to rabies in Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. — Seven people were exposed to a rabid cat that was found in the Holly Bluff Ct. area near Plant City. Those individuals were advised to start treatment for rabies immediately.

The wild cat, which was estimated to be about two years old, was found by a resident in the community. The cat appeared to be injured, so it was taken to a local animal rescue shelter. At the clinic, the cat began to display abnormal behavior. The decision was made to test it for rabies. The cat tested positive for rabies.   

RELATED | Rabies alert issued in Hillsborough County after cat tests positive for disease

An investigation carried out by the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) revealed five people at the animal rescue shelter were exposed. The person who rescued the cat, as well as another family member are the other two exposures.

DOH-Hillsborough environmental health employees went door-to-door Thursday to advise people in the affected area that a wild black and white, domestic short hair cat tested positive for rabies.

Educational information was given to all homes in the affected area.

This is the first time in 2018 that humans were exposed to a confirmed rabid animal in Hillsborough County. In 2017, three animals exposed ten people.

Following the rabies confirmation on Thursday, February 15, DOH-Hillsborough issued a rabies alert for the Plant City area. The rabies alert is for 60 days, and includes the following boundaries in Hillsborough County:

  • North boundary: East Alexander Street
  • West boundary: James L Redman Parkway
  • East boundary: Jap Tucker Road and Jim Johnson Road
  • South boundary: East Sparkman Road

All residents and visitors in Hillsborough County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Hillsborough County. Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not get a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert.

An animal with rabies could infect other wild or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes. 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.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center at (813) 744-5660.
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
  • 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.
  • Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County at (813) 307-8059.
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