Heading to Disney this summer? Watch out for rabies at Epcot

Rabies at EpcotCC: Flynn_Chris at Pixabay

As a disease that’s mercifully rare in the United States, rabies rarely makes the headlines. Recently, one feral cat decided to change all that.

After making its way to the intersection between Interstate 4 and Epcot Center Drive, the rabid cat scratched two Disney cast members. Fortunately, both were found to be free from the virus. As per state-regulations, a 60-day rabies warning has been issued for the area. It covers a two-mile radius and includes Epcot theme park.

First of all, what is rabies?

Rabies is a rare virus that has serious consequences. It’s common in some parts of Asia and Africa, but less so in the United States. Around 1 to 3 human cases are reported each year, and there’s an average of 60 to 70 cases among dogs and cats.

For those who catch the rabies virus, the neurological side effects are severe. In the worst cases, patients become paralyzed and find that they can’t breathe.

Should visitors to Epcot panic?

Probably not. One of the reasons rabies is so well-controlled in the United States is that strict protocols such as the one announced exist. By forming a large response, it’s possible to stop the problem growing out of hand. As such, you can continue visiting Epcot without worrying too much.

What are the signs an animal has rabies?

It isn’t always easy to tell when an animal has rabies. However, some of the common symptoms include:

  • The animal is stumbling, as though drunk.
  • The animal is wandering in circles.
  • It begins mutilating itself.
  • It’s snapping or barking at something that isn’t there.
  • It’s unusually aggressive without provocation.
  • Excessive drooling.

You’re more likely to spot the signs above in raccoons and skunks than you are dogs and cats. Pet vaccination programs have kept domesticated animals primarily safe. In the case of domestic animals, many of the symptoms above can come from lead poisoning too. In the case of raccoons and skunks, it’s always wise to exercise caution and call animal control, even if the symptoms appear mild.

What should you do if you receive a rabies bite or scratch?

If you suspect a rabid animal has bitten or scratched you, err on the side of caution. Run cool soapy water across the room and seek emergency medical advice. The doctor treating you will likely clean the wound and provide you with the rabies vaccination. You’ll need to return for a second vaccination and they may use immunoglobulin therapy at the wound site.

For those who are going to Epcot this summer, there’s no need to panic. The incident was likely an isolated one and you can enjoy the theme park as usual.

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About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.