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Rabies alert issued at parts of Disney World due to feral cat

Saturday, July 13th 2019, 2:47 pm - The health department warns that the cat could have possibly spread the virus to other animals

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a 60-day rabies warning at Walt Disney World Resort after two employees at the Epcot Center theme park were scratched by an infected feral cat.

The employees did not contract the virus and the Florida Department of Health spokesman, Kent Donahue, said to the press that the cat was the only rabid animal that was found in this area.

The alert covers a 3.2-kilometre radius at the intersection of Interstate 4 and Epcot Center Drive and the department warns that the cat could have possibly spread the virus to other animals. Officials are warning that people should avoid stray dogs, cats, and other wildlife in the impacted area. Other animals that have the potential to carry rabies include raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats, and coyotes.

epcot unsplash Epcot Center Drive, Orlando, United States. Credit: Patrick Hunt

Humans typically contract rabies after being bitten by an infected animal that transmits the infection through their saliva. Rabies can be fatal to humans as the virus causes paralysis of the nervous system. The virus travels through nerves to the brain where the infection reproduces and then spreads through nerves to the rest of the body.

By the time that the virus reaches the salivary glands in the mouth brain damage has usually occurred. The infected person may exhibit violent behaviour before they eventually succumb to the fatal disease.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety states that 24 people in Canada have died from rabies since reporting began in 1924. Prevention and control programs have contributed to a decline in cases of animal rabies since 2000 and between 2009 to 2012 there were zero reported cases of rabies in Canada.

Source: Florida Department of Health in Orange County | Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

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