As 2019 comes to a close, it appears that we will finish with a total of 11 reported cases of rabies in Polk County.

That is quite a bit of a contrast to the three cases we had in 2018.

Of the 11 cases, six of the infected animals were raccoons and five were bats. Those two animals are typically the type of animals we most often see with rabies around Central Florida, but they certainly aren’t the only kind to get rabies.

Any mammal can get rabies from exposure, including humans. The most common domesticated animals to get rabies are cats. Other frequently infected animals across the United States include wild and domestic dogs, foxes, skunks and cattle. Interestingly, the opossum can get rabies, but it’s very rare due to their low body temperature, making it difficult for the virus to survive in its body.

As with other mammals, rabies infections of humans can be fatal. However, immediate washing of the wound with soap and water, followed-up with medical treatment can make the chance of survival better.

The rabies virus is spread to people through bites or scratches, typically via saliva.

All domesticated dogs, cats and ferrets — four months or older — must be vaccinated against rabies. It’s not just something a responsible owner should do for their pets’ sake, it is also state law.

If you believe a rabies exposure may have occurred, take necessary medical steps and contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control section at 863-577-1762.