ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — People living in Pasco County should keep an eye out for animals behaving strangely.

The Florida Department of Health has issued a rabies alert for a portion of Zephyrhills. It comes after a raccoon attacked a dog and then tested positive for rabies this week. 

"The dog was recently vaccinated against rabies and has been placed on observation," the health department wrote in an email.

Health experts want the public to know domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. They want people to have a heightened awareness of rabies in the area. The rabies alert will be active for at least 60 days.

The center of the current rabies alert is in the southwest part of Zephyrhills and includes the following area boundaries:

  • North boundary: Eiland Boulevard
  • West boundary: Coates Rd/Dean Dairy Road
  • South boundary: Tucker Road
  • East boundary: 20th Street

Rabies is a disease that targets the nervous system and can be deadly for warm-blooded animals and people. 

"The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization," the health department said. "Appropriate treatment started soon after the exposure will protect an exposed person from the disease."

People living in the area should take the following precautions, as published by the health department:

  • Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
  • Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals.
  • If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.  
  • Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter or by leaving pet food outside.
  • 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.

Health experts say to seek emergency care right away if you are bitten by an animal and to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. You are also asked to call Pasco County Animal Services at 727-834-3216. You can also contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 863-648-3200 if you have concerns about wild animals.

For more rabies information, call the Florida Department of Health Pasco County at 352-521-1450 and select option 5.

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