PENSACOLA, FLORIDA — Floridians on the Emerald Coast have one more reason to avoid bats in 2023 – they might have rabies.
Following three years of bat-related fears stemming from the “mysterious” origins of COVID-19, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County has reported that several people were exposed to a rabid bat and a rabid fox.
The department recommends those in the county avoid contact with wild and stray animals to avoid contracting rabies, the area’s local CBS affiliate station reported.
“Rabies is a potentially fatal disease,” Marie Mott, Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, told the station. “It is important not to handle wild animals, to be aware of unusual-acting animals, and to keep pets vaccinated against rabies.”
The report stated that raccoons, bats and foxes are the wild animals most often diagnosed with rabies. The next tier includes skunks, otters, coyotes, and bobcats.
Unvaccinated household pets – dogs, cats and ferrets – may also carry a high risk of passing the disease via saliva and nervous tissue.
Bites, scratches and contact with an infected animal’s eyes, nose or mouth may result in transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that roughly 59,000 people around the world die from rabies each year – but that number is typically in the single digits in the United States.