SUFFOLK, Va. - Four people, including a child, were bitten by a rabid fox in two separate incidents this week. These incidents occurred in the Cathedral Drive and Green Chapel Road area of Suffolk.
The Suffolk Health Department was notified on December 18 that a fox tested positive for the disease. Health officials say on December 15, one adult and a child were bitten by a fox on December 15, and two adults were bitten by a fox on December 16.
The health department believes it was by the same fox both days. The three adults and the child have started treatment to prevent rabies.
Since the rabid fox was roaming the neighborhood for a few days before it was captured, people in the area are advised to check their pets to see if they show signs they have been in a fight. If so, you are asked to contact the health department so they can give you advice regarding possible rabies exposure.
Always report any human contact with a wild animal, and always avoid and report strange acting wildlife to your local animal control department.
Exposure of humans to rabies occurs when the saliva of an infected animal enters the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, such as with an animal bite or scratch. An animal exposure can be a serious medical event, for which prompt evaluation and complete treatment is critical.
Rabies is highly preventable if a vaccine is given early and as recommended. Unfortunately, without preventive treatment, by the time someone develops symptoms of rabies, there is no cure, and the disease is fatal in almost 100% of cases. The disease is also fatal in infected domestic dogs and cats that have not been vaccinated.
Dr. Billie Blair-Taylor, MD, acting health director for the Western Tidewater Health District, strongly emphasizes the following recommendations for Suffolk residents to take in protecting their families and their pets from rabies:
- If your pet has been in contact with an animal that might be rabid, contact Suffolk Animal Control at (757) 514-7855 or the Suffolk Health Department at (757) 514-4751
- Seek medical treatment promptly for any animal bite to ensure appropriate and timely evaluation and treatment. All animal exposures must be taken seriously.
- Do not approach wild or stray animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, cats and dogs.
- Ensure all pet dogs, cats and ferrets have current rabies vaccinations. Please consult your veterinarian, Suffolk Animal Control or the Suffolk Health Department if you have any questions about pet vaccinations.
- Confine your pets to your property.
- Securely seal garbage containers with lids.
State law requires all dogs and cats over the age of four months to be vaccinated against rabies. For more information on rabies, contact the Suffolk Health Department at (757) 514-4751, Suffolk Animal Control at (757) 514-7855 or visit the Virginia Department of Health's website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.