MILTON — The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County is reminding people to take precautions to avoid contact with wild or domestic animals that may be carrying rabies, after a Pace resident was exposed to a cat that later tested positive for the disease.

According to a press release from the agency, residents and visitors should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated.

Rabies is a disease that affects the brain. The virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals and is usually transmitted to people and other animals through a bite or scratch. Most cases of rabies occur in wild animals such as raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, but domesticated animals can carry it as well. The disease is fatal to humans and animals, but rabies in humans can be prevented if rabies vaccine is administered as soon as possible after exposure. There are also vaccines to protect dogs, cats and other domesticated animals from contracting the disease.

An animal with rabies may appear sick or lethargic, have problems swallowing, or drool or salivate excessively. A wild animal may appear tamer than usual and some animals may have no visible symptoms at all.

The health department advises residents and visitors to take precautions to avoid exposing themselves or their pets to rabies, including avoiding all contact with wild and unfamiliar domesticated animals, avoiding feeding or picking up a stray dog or cat and not placing feeders in yards.

If bitten, or scratched by a wild animal or stray domesticated animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. Seek medical attention immediately and report the incident to the Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County at (850) 983-5275 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  To report an animal bite after hours call (850) 418-5566.