UPDATE: A rabies alert was issued for Gulf County on June 22 just before 3 p.m. CDT.
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Following two attacks by foxes in Wewahitchka, the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County has issued a community-wide warning to residents and visitors to exercise caution around wildlife.
“Over the past few days, we’ve had increased activity in wild animal bite encounters in Wewahitchka,” the DOH said in an email sent out to Gulf County residents. “Our local officials are investigating these situations. Please be extra aware of your surroundings in your communities and do your part to decrease the spread of animal-borne illnesses and diseases. ”
At this time, they do not believe the attacks to have been from the same fox, though they have not ruled out that possibility.
The fox perpetrating the second attack died during the altercation. The Department of Health has sent off the head of the deceased fox for rabies testing.
If the fox tests positive for rabies, they will issue a formal rabies alert for the area.
Rabies outbreaks are reasonably common in the panhandle during the summertime, according to Jessie Pippin, a representative from the DOH.
She pointed to an incident with foxes contracting rabies in the Apalachicola area in April.
In the interim, the DOH encourages those spending time in the Wewahitchka area to be wary of strange animal behavior and exercise the following cautions:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
- If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact County Animal Services at 850-227-1115.
- Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood.
- Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals by leaving pet food outside, or garbage cans open.
- 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.
- Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health Gulf County at 850-227-1276.