Florida issues rabies alert covering part of Walt Disney World

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County issued a rabies alert on July 9 that will remain in effect for 60 days. The alert covers a two-mile radius around the region's Interstate 4 and Epcot Center Drive, the road leading into Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park. The warning was issued after a feral cat that scratched two park employees tested positive for rabies (the employees, however, were fine).

The region covered by the rabies alert is located in southwest Orange County, Florida. Though the cat has been eliminated, it is possible it spread rabies to other wildlife in the area, potentially including stray dogs and cats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats, otters, coyotes, and bobcats, among other less likely creatures.

Public health officials are warning the public to avoid these animals in the region in order to avoid potentially coming in contact with the rabies virus. Anyone who suffers a scratch or bite from a cat or wildlife located in this alert region is advised to immediately get medical help and also to contact the Orange County Animal Services.

Of course, rabies exists in the wild and contact with wildlife always presents the risk of contracting the virus, which is spread through saliva. Pets can and should be vaccinated against the virus to avoid contracting it and spreading it to humans. Rabies is deadly without prompt treatment.

Officials point out that though the alert covers a two-mile radius, it is possible to get rabies from wild animals outside of that area — the virus is spread from one creature to another and these animals tend to travel long distances. Residents and visitors are warned to keep food stored in order to avoid attracting these animals to areas where people are located.