Rabid fox bites four people in Suffolk

Published 11:14 pm Saturday, December 18, 2021

Four people have started treatment to prevent rabies after being bitten by a fox this week in an area off Robs Drive, according to the Virginia Department of Health Western Tidewater Health District.

The fox had been roaming the neighborhood in the area of Cathedral Drive and Green Chapel Road for at least a few days, according to a press release the district sent Dec. 18. A fox bit an adult and child Dec. 15 and two adults Dec. 16, and officials believe it was the same fox both days. The fox was captured and tested, and confirmation of the positive test was received Dec. 18.

Health officials are urging people in the area to check their pets to see if they show signs of having been in a fight. If so, people should contact the health department to get advice regarding possible rabies exposure.

People should always report any human contact with a wild animal and avoid and report strange-acting wildlife to Animal Control.

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 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, 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 4 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 at www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/rabies or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/rabies.