The Lee County Health Department is encouraging animal owners to be certain that their pets and livestock are vaccinated against rabies following the recent death of a horse in North Fort Myers.
The rabies death was confirmed last week as the first livestock or domestic animal rabies case in two years.
It is unknown how the horse contracted the disease. Rabies occurs in wild animals, consistently posing a threat to domestic animals and livestock that are not vaccinated.
Rabies is a fatal disease, but is easily prevented with vaccinations. There have been no human cases of rabies originating in Florida since 1946, due to aggressive animal vaccinating, said Judith Hartner, M.D., director of the health department.
The US Centers for Disease Control lists the following recommendations to keep humans and animals safe from rabies:
Visit a veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.
Maintain control of pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
Spay or neuter pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.
Another safety measure encouraged by the American Humane Society is to feed pets indoors. Leaving food outside often attracts wildlife to the yard.
This is the first case of animal rabies seen in Lee County this year. The average number of animal cases is two or three per year.
Full service and low cost veterinary clinics can be found on Lee County Domestic Animal Services website at www.leelostpets.com.