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Florida issues rabies alert for part of Walt Disney World

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County issued a rabies alert this week for a two-mile radius around Epcot Center Drive and Interstate 4 in the southwest part of the county after tests showed a feral cat had the disease. A Walt Disney World spokeswoman said the cat had scratched two employees but they did not get sick.

Authorities said other animals in the area could have been infected and warned residents and visitors to avoid “feral cats, stray dogs and all wildlife particularly raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.” Anyone who gets scratched or bitten by a wild animal should seek medical attention, the health department said. Rabies is deadly, but quick treatment can protect a person after they are exposed.

The two-mile radius includes only a fraction of the sprawling Walt Disney World Resort, which spans about 40 square miles. It does include part of Epcot, which is one of four theme parks on the property, as well as the Disney Springs shopping and dining area, the Typhoon Lagoon water park and some hotels. The feral cat was not found in any of those spots popular with tourists but rather in a remote parking area outside an office building.

“Alerts are designed to increase awareness to the public,” the health department’s announcement said. “This alert should not give a false sense of security to areas that have not been named under this alert.”

The alert is in place for 60 days — all the way through the busy summer season at the parks. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is expecting massive crowds for its new Star Wars area starting Aug. 29, sits outside the alert area, as do the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks. The animals at Animal Kingdom are vaccinated.

Disney spokeswoman Erica Ettori said in an email that the company shared the alert with employees to prepare them to respond to visitors.

“We continue to encourage our cast and guests not to engage with wildlife,” she said.

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