Rabies Surveillance and Animal Bites
221 Hospital Dr. NE
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
Rabies is a deadly viral disease in mammals that can be prevented but not cured. The threat of rabies transmission from animals to humans necessitates a statewide surveillance system with thorough investigation and follow-up of all humans and domestic animals that are exposed to a suspected rabid animal. A rabies exposure is considered any bite, scratch or other situation in which saliva or nervous tissue of a potentially rabid animal enters an open or fresh wound, or comes in contact with mucous membranes by entering the eye, mouth, or nose of another animal.
Approximately 60, 000 Florida residents and visitors (especially children) are bitten each year by some type of domestic or wild animal. The majority of positive cases in Florida have been found in raccoons, bats, foxes and feral cats. The virus infects the central nervous system of the animal and ultimately will cause disease in the brain and death.
The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) under the authority of Chapter 381 Florida Statutes and Chapter 64D-3, Florida Administrative Code, follows all cases of possible exposure to make sure that there is no risk of a rabies transmission. A quarantine (isolation) period is required in all cases regardless of vaccination status.
In Florida, dogs, cats and ferrets are required under Chapter 828.30 Florida Statutes to be currently vaccinated against rabies with an approved vaccine given by licensed veterinarian. Rabies vaccinations given by the owners are not accepted in Florida. Rabies vaccinations provide protection from the disease; however, vaccinated animals must still be quarantined by Florida Department of Health (DOH) personnel when a possible exposure has occurred.
Animal bites or injuries require immediate attention and possibly a visit to a doctor or emergency room because domesticated and feral animals can transmit a large number of diseases to humans. Special attention and urgency should be given to injuries involving small children (up to 2 yrs. old) or injuries located above the neck and shoulders (i.e., face bites).
A copy of the Rabies Exposure Form (PDF 47 KB) can be filled out in person at the DOH-Okaloosa office, by phone, or at any medical or veterinary provider.
If you need to report an animal bite, contact 850-833-9065.