The Florida Department of Health Lee County has issued a rabies alert in the wake of a confirmed case of the disease in a cat in Lehigh Acres recently.
While the Cape is not under alert - that area encompasses State Road 82, Buckingham Road, Sunshine Boulevard North and 15th Street Southwest in Lehigh - pet owners here should also take note as the health department is reiterating the need for all pets and livestock to be rabies vaccinated.
"All residents and visitors in Lee County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated," a release from the agency states. "The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Lee 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."
This is the county's first confirmed case of rabies in a domestic animal since 2012 when a horse died from the disease.
Inoculation is urged because rabies, while rare, is always fatal.
Domestic animals - pets and livestock - typically contract the disease after coming into contact with an infected wild animal. That was the case of the Lehigh Acres pet, which was injured by an unknown animal and taken to a vet for treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 92 percent of the 6,154 cases confirmed in the U.S. in 2010 were non-domestic, with raccoons topping the list followed by skunks, bats and foxes.
Cats made up nearly 5 percent of the tally while dogs and cattle came in at just over 1 percent each.
To that end, in addition to urging inoculation, the health department reminds us to:
n Keep pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If a pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Lee County Domestic Animal Services at (239) 533-7387.
- Call animal control to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
- 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.
Anyone who is bitten or scratched by a wild or domestic animal should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at (239) 332-9580.