Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be prevented but not cured. The virus attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals, including people.
When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or the animal’s nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.
The Florida Department of Health in Marion County investigates more than 1,000 animal bite incidents involving possible human exposure to rabies each year. Through close work with the Department’s Environmental Health program, animals must be located and quarantined. Most family pets are simply observed in the home during the quarantine period. For those animals that exhibit rabies symptoms, appropriate animal specimens are examined by a state laboratory. The Department alerts victims and the public when confirmed cases of rabies are discovered.
If you are bitten by an animal:
- Control bleeding and wash the area of the bite with soap and water.
- Report the bite to the health department, animal control agency, or police. Download and fill out the PDF Report of Possible Rabies Exposure form.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
The Department can administer the rabies vaccine to clients exposed to rabid or potentially rabid animals.
We can also provide pre-exposure prophylaxis for people in high-risk professions, such as animal control and veterinary personnel, laboratory workers, and those working with wildlife.
For more information, visit the Florida Department of Health Rabies page.