The Florida Department of Health in Holmes County has issued a rabies alert for the areas of Bonifay and Westville. This is in response to two raccoons testing positive for rabies recently in those geographic locations.

All residents and visitors in Holmes County should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in Holmes County. Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public, but they should not give a false sense of security to areas that have not been named as under an alert.

The recent rabies alert is for 60 days. The rabies alert is for the area of extreme northwest Holmes County and the area of Griffen Dr. and Decon Road on the southwest side of Bonifay.

An animal with rabies could infect other wild animals or domestic animals that have not been vaccinated against rabies. All domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies and all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes. Rabies is a disease of the nervous system and is fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization. Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure, will protect an exposed person from the disease.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

• Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets and at-risk livestock.

• Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property. If your pet or livestock are bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact Holmes County Animal Control at 547-1119.

• Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.

• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

• Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with outdoor food sources such as uncovered trash 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.

• Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the DOH- Holmes at 547-8500.

For further information on rabies, go to http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and- conditions/rabies/index.html, or contact DOH-Holmes at 547-8500.

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

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