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Area safety concern

Rabid raccoon recently found on Fort Myers Beach

May 3, 2017
By JESSICA SALMOND (jsalmond@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

The raccoons who live behind Topps Market and Bay Oaks have been called a nuisance, but now they're a public health concern.

No rabies alert has been issued, but the Lee County Sheriffs Office and Lee County Domestic Animal Services are asking Fort Myers Beach residents to maintain a heightened awareness of wildlife and to avoid feeding feral animals on the island after a raccoon was captured and tested positive for rabies last week.

On Sunday, April 9, Scot Janikule was walking his dog, Jeep, near the dock at the end of Gulf Beach Road and hanging out with friends. In daylight, a raccoon wandered out of the woods and up to them, and his dog went for the raccoon. The raccoon attacked the dog and bit its leg.

Another man, James Owl, grabbed the raccoon by the neck and put it in a nearby garbage receptacle. Owl obtained a bite and scratches to his hand and was transferred to the hospital, according to the Lee County Domestic Animal Services report,

A Sheriff's Office deputy responded to the scene after Janikule called law enforcement and observed the raccoon inside the trash crate. The deputy reported the raccoon was "stumbling around and disoriented," trying to eat plastic garbage and not trying to escape.

To test for rabies, the brain of an animal must be kept intact. Janikule said he reminded the deputy of this, so the raccoon was tranquilized, humanely euthanized by Animal Services, and sent to a lab rabies testing.

Then, it was a waiting game until the results came back April 20. Jeep had his one-year rabies vaccination in December, and Owl had received an initial rabies shot when he was taken to the hospital.

Lee County sent out a press release and notified Janikule April 20, but he'd already made his own calls to the Lee County Department of Health to get the results and had set up an appointment for Jeep to get a booster shot. The health department is the first to be notified when results come back from the lab.

Despite the vaccination and the booster, Jeep has to be monitored and quarantined for 45 days. Owl also has to begin rabies treatment .

Janikule said he sees raccoons in the trash bins every day and is concerned that the virus could be present in another animal. He sees kids walking behind Tops every day going to or from school or Bay Oaks.

"If one has rabies, chances are others have it too," he said. "They are a nuisance and a health concern."

Lee County is asking residents to check on their pets' vaccinations and avoid interacting with or feeding wildlife or feral animals, according to a press release. In Florida, raccoons, bats, foxes and unvaccinated cats are the animals most frequently diagnosed with rabies, although other mammals can also contract the disease. The Florida Department of Health has not issued a rabies alert yet. In the past 5 years, there have been seven reported rabies cases in all of Lee County, according to health department reports.

LCDAS hold monthly rabies vaccine clinics, at which pet owners can get their animals vaccinated for $5 without an appointment. The next clinic will be held Friday, May 19 from 10 a.m. To noon at the LCDAS office, 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers.

 
 

 

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