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Rabid fox attacks
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00

A Rimrock woman is undergoing medical treatment after she was attacked by a rabid fox in her yard Nov. 23.

A Rimrock woman is undergoing medical treatment after she was attacked by a rabid fox in her yard Nov. 23. The information was publicly released last week after the fox’s remains were tested and confirmed for rabies by the Arizona State LaboratoryThe information was publicly released last week after the fox’s remains were tested and confirmed for rabies by the Arizona State Laboratory.

Yavapai County Community Health Services wouldn’t identify the victim, but did confirm the details of the attack.

The woman had put her small dog outside that afternoon, said David McAtee, public information officer for the county’s health services.

“She heard the dog yelp and went back out to see what was going on,” McAtee said.

The woman saw the fox right as it attacked her, biting her on the heel and leg. The fox chased after her as she fled, which is uncharacteristic behavior for the animal. Hearing the commotion, a neighbor came outside with a shotgun. The fox tried to attack the man, who tried to kick it away about 20 times with his boot.

“Eventually he had to shoot it,” McAtee said.

Other agencies eventually took part in the aftermath of the incident, including the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The woman was taken for treatment as a precautionary measure while the fox’s remains were sent off for testing.

McAtee said even though the examination was marked as a “rush job,” it still took several days to conduct the testing due to the available resources and manpower.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system of mammals leading to symptoms that can include fevers, headaches, confusion, hallucination, insomnia, agitation, partial paralysis and difficulty swallowing.

Most hospitals have the necessary supplies needed to treat rabies, McAtee said. If left untreated is almost always fatal.

Fortunately, no one who has received the treatment within 48 hours after being exposed to rabies has ever developed a fatal case, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease typically manifests itself rather quickly, but in rare cases symptoms have laid dormant for years.

Most domestic animals have been, or are supposed to have been, vaccinated for rabies. Pets that haven’t been vaccinated and are exposed to the disease are required to be euthanized.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, most cases of rabies in wild animals in the state are found in brown bats, gray foxes and skunks. In 2009, 280 animals tested positive for rabies, both wild and domestic.

Keeping a distance from wild animals and keeping pet food secured is a good way to avoid attracting potentially rabid creatures, per game and fish department guidelines.

McAtee also provided a list of rabies safety recommendations from the county, including:

  • Never handle a wild animal like a bat, raccoon, skunk or fox.
  • If you wake up in a room with a bat present, regardless if there is evidence of a bite or scratch, seek medical attention. If at all possible trap the bat for testing. Do not release the bat.
  • Wash animal bites thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
  • If bitten by a wild or stray animal, quarantine the animal if possible. Call the local animal control or the Arizona Game and Fish Department to report an incident.
  • Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
  • Do not handle dead animals, especially bats.
  • Prevent bats and raccoons from entering homes or spaces where people and pets may be present.
  • Keep vaccinations current for dogs, cats and ferrets. Keep cats and ferrets inside and dogs under direct supervision.

If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a rabid animal, wash the wound and seek medical treatment immediately.


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