ST. PETERSBURG — Health officials are looking for a toddler who may have been exposed to rabies after being clawed by a raccoon at Sawgrass Lake Park.
The child, who appeared to be about 3, was feeding a pretzel to a raccoon when it clawed the boy just before 2 p.m. Thursday.
A park employee who witnessed the incident asked the man accompanying the child to seek medical attention, the Pinellas County Health Department said. But the man left the park at 7400 25th St. N with the toddler and refused to provide contact information.
Now health officials want to find the child to determine if treatment should be started.
"It's precautionary," said Health Department spokeswoman Maggie Hall. "You have to assume the worst."
Left untreated, rabies symptoms can take several weeks to manifest. But once they do, the rare illness is almost always irreversible and fatal, she said.
Rabies treatment consists of local treatment of the wound, followed by vaccine therapy to prevent infection. The shots should begin within 10 days of exposure.
Health care providers report to the Health Department cases involving possible rabies exposure. Because none has been reported in this incident, health officials are getting concerned about finding the child soon.