Palmetto Bay resident bit by rabid otter alerts nearby residents

PALMETTO BAY, Fla. (WSVN) — An elderly man who was outside his Palmetto Bay home when a rabid otter attacked him wants to warn his neighbors about a rabies alert in the area.

The rabid otter bit 89-year-old David McDonald on the foot as he was about to enter his house in Palmetto Bay and shared his story with 7News on Wednesday.

The otter posed a serious threat for the people in Miami-Dade County. Residents in the area are now on edge.

“I just wanted people in the area to know and be warned, that’s all,” McDonald said.

McDonald suffered a serious bite after he encountered the otter on the porch last week in the area of Southwest 152nd Street and 68th Avenue.

“The otter was in the walkway between me and the house, so I was almost in the door, and it came back and bit me on the foot,” McDonald said.

The animal was then tracked, taken away and tested.

“Once I was told it was rabid, then I was really concerned,” the victim said.

McDonald told 7News that he was concerned about his neighbors and the children at the nearby school who may not know that rabies is fatal without treatment.

The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County has since issued a new warning.

“I think that the response that we have been given is appropriate,” said Dr. Alvaro Mejia Echeverry with the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade. “The alert for the new area where the otter was found will be issued as of today.”

The boundaries for the rabies alert cover parts of Palmetto Bay and Coral Gables between Southwest 144th Street to the north, 184th Street to the south, Biscayne Bay to the east and U.S. 1 to the west.

An alert was also re-issued for an area in Kendall after another raccoon tested positive for rabies. The boundaries are 152nd Street to the north, 187th Street to the south, 117th Avenue to the east and 137th Avenue to the west.

So far this year, 10 animals have tested positive for rabies in Miami-Dade County.

“I believe that the rabies problem in Dade County is endemic,” said veterinarian Dr. Les Gerson.

Gerson was also a victim of an attack. “And the next thing I know, he’s coming at me,” he said.

He spoke with 7News last year after a rabid raccoon went after him and his cat in his backyard.

“My question is, why is nothing being done about it?” Gerson said.

Officials with Miami-Dade County Animal Services told 7News that they are working with federal, state and local agencies to come up with a prevention plan.

“We’ve all come together to collaborating on an effort to implement an oral rabies vaccine program,” said Kathleen Labrada with Miami-Dade Animal Services.

The plan would include setting out bait that would vaccinate wild animals.

“We are currently doing wildlife surveillance to determine what type of bait is best for our climate and our landscape here,” Labrada said, “and we should be implementing that over the next few months.”

However, that effort comes a bit too late for McDonald. After that otter bite, he had to endure a series of lifesaving shots.

McDonald hopes that by sharing his story, he could help save someone else from pain and worry.

“I think the public needs to be warned,” he said.

Officials said that those residents who are not in alert zones should still be on alert. Do not try to interact with any wild animals and make sure pets are vaccinated.

For further information, click here. You may also call the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County at 305-324-2400 or Animal Services at 311.

For a list of wildlife trappers, click here.

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