The Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology reported 63 animal rabies cases in 2022, a 20 percent decrease in cases compared to 2021 when 79 cases were reported.
Orange County saw the most cases with nine, while Leon and Alachua counties reported four cases each.
In the Tampa Bay area, the following counties reported cases: Hillsborough (3- all in cats), Polk (1-Bat) and Manatee (1-raccoon).
Raccoons accounted for about half the animal rabies cases with 31, followed by bats (14) and cats (12).
The 12 cats reported in 2022 was double the six cats testing positive in 2021.
Since 2002 and through last year, Florida has reported more than 2,600 total animal rabies cases, or an average of 124 cases annually.
The Florida Department of Health only performs rabies testing on suspect rabid animals that have potentially exposed a person, pet, livestock, or captive wildlife.
According to the Florida Department of Health, rabies virus can cause a nearly 100% fatal illness in humans and other mammals. The virus is present in some wildlife in Florida and can spread to unvaccinated pets, which then pose a high risk to the pet owner and their family. The main wildlife sources of rabies in Florida are raccoons and bats. Infected raccoons and bats can expose people, pets, livestock and other wildlife to rabies, typically through bites. Outside cats are by far the most common domestic animal found to have rabies in the state of Florida largely because they are often not kept up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Dogs, cats and ferrets are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies in the state of Florida.