Neighborhoods near the Big Tree Park in Longwood are under a rabies alert as of Tuesday, according to the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County.
The alert was issued after a cat found in a nearby neighborhood tested positive for rabies. The cat's newborn kittens may also be infected with the rabies virus.
Jon Hall, who lives in the Crystal Creek subdivision, said he is one of six people on his street who were bit or scratched by a stray gray cat that's roamed their street for about a year.
"It came out and it rubbed against my leg, and then I put my hand down just to kind of pet on its back a little bit. It kind of nipped me," Hall said.
Hall said he didn't think anything of it because that happened while he and his family were trying to look at the cat's kittens in a storm drain near their house.
"As it turns out, now we know that it had rabies so that was the onset of the rabies getting more and more aggressive," said Hall.
As the days went on, Hall said the cat got more aggressive and it attacked his next door neighbor.
"Wrapped around his leg and he shook it off and then it came back out," said Hall. "He and his roommate threw a blanket over it, wrapped it up in the blanket not knowing it had rabies and took it back to the yard where it lived."
Hall said another neighbor was walking her dog last week when the cat showed aggression so she called animal control. Seminole County Animal Control picked the cat up and tested it for rabies.
"The first day it was in quarantine, they said this cat is crazy and has rabies and you obviously have to put the cat to sleep at that point. And then they have to do their final testing and they determined it had rabies," said Hall.
Hall said he, three other adults and two children are all now receiving rabies vaccines.
"We had to get shots in the bite. It got me on the hand so I had to get two shots right here (hand) and two shots in my arm and a shot on each of my thighs," said Hall.
Hall has to get another shot Friday and said one of the vaccines cost $19,000.
Because it's not known if the cat's kittens are still roaming and could possibly be infected as well, an alert has been issued for all neighborhoods surrounding Big Tree Park. Residents are asked to maintain a heightened awareness of the virus by protecting pets that are not vaccinated, staying away from all wildlife and covering outside garbage to avoid attracting animals. The alert will last for 60 days.
Because of the alert, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando Sanford Veterinary Clinic is providing $5 preventative rabies vaccinations to all dogs and cats until 5 p.m. Saturday. The shot usually costs $17 plus a $37 exam fee, which will be waived. The Pet Alliance Sanford location is 2800 County Home Road Sanford, FL 32773 and their phone number is 407-323-8685. Walk-in rabies vaccination hours are from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Anyone with information regarding the possible location of these kittens is asked to call the Seminole County Animal Services at 407-665-5201, or the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County at 407-665-3294.