Rabies alert issued for part of Fort Lauderdale after raccoon attack

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Florida Department of Health in Broward County has issued a rabies alert for a portion of Fort Lauderdale, days after a raccoon bit two women in the Shady Banks neighborhood.

Officials on Monday said they issued the alert after a raccoon tested positive for rabies. They warned that pets not vaccinated for rabies are at risk of contracting the disease.

“I’m a New Yorker, so I have eyes and ears 360 degrees,” resident Gail Wahn said. “I also have [my dog], and we can’t afford to have her be hurt.”

The rabies alert will remain in effect for 60 days. It encompasses the following boundaries:

  • Southwest Ninth Street to the north
  • I-95 to the West
  • South fork of the New River to the east
  • South fork of the New River to the south

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm-blooded animals and humans. The only preventive measure for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization.

Officials said all domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, and residents should avoid all contact with wildlife, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

Residents and visitors are also advised to take the following precautions:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.
  • Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.
  • If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact animal control services.
  • Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources such as uncovered trash 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.

The raccoon attacks took place Friday morning and prompted Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue crews to contact Florida Fish and Wildlife to try and remove the animal. One woman was landscaping her yard when she was attacked. She said she had “clippers in her hand” and hit the raccoon “very hard.”

“This is a very family-oriented neighborhood,” neighbor Sheila McKenna said. “We really enjoy the wild animals, as well. However, just by the nature of things, unfortunately, sometimes one becomes rabid, and they’re very dangerous. Really we need something that goes out immediately if there is a dangerous animal in the neighborhood. You need instant reaction to take care of the problem.”

“It’s really unfortunate that that happened to that woman, but I’m not frightened,” neighbor Brian Haggerty said. “It seemed to be an isolated incident. There is rabies in South Florida, so we’re all aware of that — just have to keep your eyes open. I don’t think we have a rampant rabies problem here. I think this was an isolated incident.”

Officials said anyone who has been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Broward FDOH at 954-467-4700.

For further information on rabies, click here.

The Department works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

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