Our Panama City injury law firm encourages area residents to exercise particular caution in dealing with both wild animals and pets after the re-issuance of a rabies alert. The danger of rabies adds another layer of concern to animal bites in Bay County.
Just days after a prior warning expired, the Bay County Health Department issued a rabies alert. WJHG reported that the alert was issued after a raccoon tested positive for the virus on February 16. The rabid animal had been killed by a dog near the corner of Sweetwater Branch and Nonawood Roads in the Fountain area. Rabies has been found in two Bay County animals thus far in 2012, including a bobcat in addition to last week's raccoon. Last year, Bay County led the entire state of Florida in rabies cases with ten infected animals, including 2 domestic cats, 1 bat, and 7 raccoons.
Rabies is a serious disease that can be fatal to warm-blooded animals, including humans. It is a virus that impacts the nervous system. Humans who are treated soon after exposure can be treated with a special immunization which can prevent the exposure from turning into an active infection. Initial symptoms develop between 2 weeks and 3 months after infection, but it can take years for rabies to develop, making quick action after a bite even more crucial.
Early signs often resemble common flu symptoms and include fever, fatigue, and headache. As the disease progresses, acute pain and violent movements develop. Untreated rabies often leads to a coma, and patients typically die from respiratory failure. A definitive diagnosis of rabies can only be made via autopsy.
Rabies can spread from infected wild animals to domestic pets. Approximately ninety-seven percent of people who contract the rabies virus get it from dog bites. Florida law does require all cats and dogs be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age. Vaccines must be administered by a licensed veterinarian--those purchased and administered directly by an owner do not meet the legal requirement.
The presence of rabies in our area makes it especially crucial to exercise caution when dealing with wild animals and even unknown domestic pets. The danger of rabies, which can spread from one animal to another, adds another layer of concern to dog bites in Panama City and the surrounding regions. If you are bitten by a dog, it is vital that you ask the owner to provide records proving that the animal has been properly vaccinated. As noted above, if caught in a timely fashion, it is possible to prevent a bite from becoming infected.
Dog bite victims should also reach out to an experienced Panama City injury lawyer. There is a frequently-cited myth that a dog gets "one free bite," but owners in Florida are liable for dog bites even if the dog has no prior history of violence. Seeking legal recourse after a dog bite provides the victim with compensation and also supports a crucial public good by sending a message that owners must control their animals. This message can help prevent future bites and help avoid the transmission of rabies or other health threats to humans.