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It's a New Day in Public Health.

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

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Frequently Asked Questions

Contact the Florida Department of Health

1. 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. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or the animal's nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.

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2. What do rabid animals look like?

Animals with rabies may show strange behavior -- they can be aggressive, attacking for no apparent  reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). 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.

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3. What do I do if an animal bites me?

  • Immediately scrub the wound with lots of soap and running water for five to ten minutes.
  • 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.
  • Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.
  • 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.
  • If you kill the animal, be careful not to damage the head, and avoid further contact with the animal even when it is dead.

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4. What do I do to protect myself, my family and my pets from rabies?

  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate all of your dogs, cats, ferrets and horses against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian's instructions for revaccination.
  • Avoid contact with wild or stray animals.
  • Never feed wild or stray animals -- avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources (like uncovered trash). Feed your pets indoors.
  • Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.
  • Support animal control in your community. If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. 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 dealt with by animal control or county health department staff.

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