Veterinarian Doesn’t Believe Rabies Alert Perimeter Goes Far Enough

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A local veterinarian attacked by a rabid raccoon in Kendall says the perimeter for the first rabies alert in Miami-Dade County in 16 years doesn’t go far enough.

Dr. Les Gerson believes Miami Dade College students and teachers are at risk and should be notified after a rabid raccoon was discovered nearby.

Yet the college and surrounding homes and businesses are being excluded from a public health alert.

CBS4’s David Sutta met Gerson in his driveway Friday where he had caught another raccoon.

“In the last 15 minutes I caught one outside,” he said.

Cute? Absolutely. But Gerson warns to not be fooled.  It could have rabies just like the one that woke him up a week ago at 4:30 a.m.

“I hear a scream. A rabid scream,” he explained.

He walked outside to find “a raccoon chewing, literally trying to eat my cat.”

“So I walk over and the raccoon jumps in the pool and starts swimming like a snake in the water,” he explained. “I’m standing there and it comes out and attacks me. Physically attacks. Saliva everywhere.  Broken teeth. Spit out a plant.”

Gerson said he kicked it and it attacked him three times before it died.

He alerted animal control, who after testing confirmed it was indeed rabid.

The Miami Dade Health Department issued a rare 60-day rabies public health alert for homeowners in the area.

But oddly enough, they choose to include only the homes north of Gerson’s house.

“Raccoons only walk north? They don’t go south at all?  There has to be a reason it stops here,” he said.

To the south are homes and Miami Dade College.

“Miami Dade is right over there. Thousands of students,” Gerson said.

“That’s what you are worried about?” Sutta asked him.

“That’s what I’m worried about.  I’ll be OK.  I’m concerned that the boundary is right here.  Yet over there where the raccoons are breeding, people are exposed,” he said. “And raccoons don’t just stay in the 500-foot area, 1,000-foot area. Seventy-five acres wide is where they travel, five miles in any direction.”

It turns out the Health Department did alert Miami Dade College.

In a statement from the college the said:

“We were notified by the Health Department immediately. The Kendall Campus facilities team is aware. Independent of this incident, the campus, because of its location near natural areas, we always takes precautions with regard to the proper containment of trash and food waste. We don’t have any reports raccoon sightings on the actual campus but have pledged to report any if seen.”

Animal control is now calling and handing out these flyers to the homeowners in the public health alert zone.

Gerson says it’s not enough.  He wants the alert area widened to include the college and wants someone to start trapping animals.

Animal service told CBS4 they do not have plans to trap.

With regard to the boundaries of the alert, the Health Department said the current perimeter was based on the advice of staff epidemiologist. They did not elaborate.

More from David Sutta
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