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Rabies alert issued for Disney World's Epcot area after infected cat scratches employees  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a 60-day rabies warning at Walt Disney World Resort in response to reports a rabid cat had been found in the area.

The alert, announced Tuesday, covers the two-mile radius of the intersection of Interstate 4 and Epcot Center Drive, which includes Disney's Epcot Center theme park.

Disney World spokeswoman Erica Ettori told USA TODAY two cast members were scratched by the lab-confirmed rabid cat but did not contract the virus. 

"We are relieved the two Cast Members received timely treatment and are back to work," Ettori said.

In its statement, the Florida Department of Health asked the public to "maintain a heightened awareness that rabies is active in this area of southwest Orange County."

Florida Department of Health spokesman Kent Donahue said the cat was the only rabid animal found in the area so far this week.

Because the cat may have spread rabies to other animals, the department advised people in the affected area avoid stray cats and dogs as well as wildlife such as raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.

Their statement also instructed anyone who comes in contact with those animals to seek immediate medical attention and contact Orange County Animal Services at 407-254-9150.

It also urged pet owners to vaccinate their animals if they had not done so already. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies is a "fatal but preventable viral disease" that can also cause paralysis and coma. Because the virus is spread through animal saliva, humans can be infected through animal bites, scratches or open-wound exposure. The only way to stop it is by preventing the virus from taking hold through a series of shots.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a fast-acting shot of rabies-immune globulin is administered to the site of the bite as soon as possible. Then, over the next two weeks, the patient is given a series of four additional shots to train his or her immune system to identify and attack the virus. 

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