Update: CDC confirms fox that bit man in Walton County was rabid

Fox in the Loganville area that later bit a man and was shot by Walton County Sheriff’s Deputies. It tested positive for rabies. Contributed photo


Walton County Animal Control director Bill Wise said the CDC confirmed that the fox that was shot by a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy last week after it bit a Walton County man tested positive for rabies.

According to the incident report from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, the deputy shot the fox after it attacked him when he responded to the call. It had bitten onto his pant leg. The man who had been bitten had tried unsuccessfully to choke and stab the fox during the attack, but it was only killed once the deputy arrived on the scene with a gun. Walton EMS was called due to the fact that the behavior of the fox was out of character and rabies was suspected. The man reportedly had a 1 and 1/2 inch scratch or bite on his leg. He reportedly told EMS that he would be seeking medical attention later that morning.

There were reports from other people in the same area of a fox attempting to attack a group of runners the day before. Also, a dog had reportedly been bitten. The owner of the dog reported that it was up to date on its rabies shots and had a booster following the attack.

Initial story

Bill Wise, director of Walton County Animal Control, confirmed that a fox shot by a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy in the early morning hours of Thursday, July 11, 2019, will be tested for rabies after it bit a man. According to the report, the red female gray fox appeared to be about a year old.

“Our office picked up a deceased fox this morning that was shot by a deputy on Rock Court that reportedly bit a 22-year-old man taking out the trash,” Wise said. “It is being shipped to the CDC today for rabies testing.”
Neighbors said they believe that the man who was bitten would be seeking medical attention today. They are concerned for others in the neighborhood and because of the proximity to Sharon Elementary School. Sara Bonner, who lives in the Center Hill Station neighborhood, said she is concerned for her two small children.
“I hope this is able to get out to the public since there are a lot of children out playing (including my 1-year-old and 5-year-old) and we’re right next to the Sharon Elementary school. Definitely a scary situation,” Bonner said. She said a cat had been picked up by Animal Control on June 20 when it was found deceased in the driveway of the home where the man who was bitten lives.
A social media conversation from others in the area about the attack has reported that a dog also has been bitten and another poster said she was attacked by a fox while out running.
Area where a man was bitten by a fox in the early morning hours of July 11, 2019.
Wise shared some information on rabies to warn neighbors in the area to be on the lookout for unusual behavior from animals in the area and to keep an eye on animals and young children.
“While one report of rabies isn’t a cause for alarm, the disease is found in wildlife and all pets should be safely contained at home and vaccinated regularly in accordance with state and local laws,” Wise said, going on to share this link for information.


What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals, usually occurring among wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. The rabies virus travels from the site of the bite up through the nerves until it reaches the brain, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. 

Which animals carry rabies?

In the United States, rabies occurs primarily in wild mammals (e.g., skunks, raccoons, coyotes, foxes and bats). Sometimes, these wild animals infect domestic cats, dogs, and livestock. Rabies is rare in small rodents such as squirrels, rabbits, beavers, chipmunks, rats and mice, muskrats, hamsters, gerbils, porcupines and guinea pigs.

How is the rabies virus spread?

When an infected animal bites another animal the rabies virus is transmitted in the infected animal’s saliva. Rarely, rabies is spread when infectious material from a rabid animal, such as saliva, comes into contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

Early symptoms of rabies in humans are non-specific and may include fever, headache, and general malaise. Later, signs of encephalopathy such as insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water) may appear. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

It is a misconception that rabid animals are spotted easily because they drool and foam at the mouth.

These symptoms may never occur or may occur only at the very last stages of the disease. Any non-domesticated or stray animal that acts abnormally should be suspected of having rabies. Rabid animals may stagger, appear restless, be aggressive, have difficulty walking, seem overly friendly, or appear to be choking.

How soon do symptoms appear after exposure?

The length of time between the bite and the symptoms of rabies depends on the strain of rabies virus, how much rabies virus was introduced into the wound, and the distance from the site of the bite to the brain. Usually, the incubation period is quite long and may be one to three months.

What is the treatment for rabies?

There is no known, effective treatment for rabies once the symptoms of the illness have developed. Rabies can be prevented in humans if medical care is sought soon after an exposure to the rabies virus. If left untreated, rabies is always deadly.

How can rabies be prevented?

Make certain that all owned dogs and cats are regularly vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian. Teach children not to approach or play with wild or stray domestic animals of any kind. Tell them that even though a baby skunk or raccoon may look cute, it can spread very serious diseases. Love your own, leave other animals alone is a good principle for children to learn.

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