Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health

PRESS RELEASE

Date Released: 8/15/2007
Subject: Humboldt Hill Area Rabies News Release
Contact: Brian Cox, Director, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215

There have been two incidents of fox attacks on persons in the Humboldt Hill area reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Environmental Health within the last two weeks. On August 4th a man was bitten on the calf and the animal was subsequently tested positive with rabies by the Public Health Laboratory. In the second incident on August 12th a man was attacked by a fox that got away. Both victims pursued medical assistance right away and are being treated for the rabies exposures before they develop any symptoms of rabies. A third animal, a coyote, was reported ill and later died under care in captivity and tested positive for rabies on July 27th. Although rabies is present in Humboldt County wildlife, it is unusual to see this many rabid or suspected rabid wild animal encounters within the same area and short timeframe.

Residents are warned that a fox can show very aggressive behavior when exhibiting the symptoms of the rabies virus. The two recent events involved unprovoked attacks on people. Rabies is endemic or always present in the wildlife population and typically found in bats, skunks, and sometimes in wild carnivores such as coyotes or foxes. No matter where they reside, persons can protect themselves with the following measures:

1. Avoid contact with wild animals.
2. Vaccinate dogs, cats and select livestock against rabies. Keep vaccinations current.
3. Obtain medical care promptly if bitten by a wild animal.
4. Report bites from domestic animals to county or city animal control and bites from wild animals to Environmental Health.

Rabies is fatal. Vaccination of pets is a primary prevention measure, providing a barrier to keep the rabies virus from passing from the wild animal population to domestic animals and people. State law requires vaccination of all dogs and it is strongly recommended that cats be vaccinated. If a domestic dog or cat with a current rabies vaccination status is exposed to a rabid animal, then the owner is directed to have the animal re-vaccinated (immunity needs to be high) and observe the animalís behavior for a 30 day period. A pet that is not current in its rabies vaccinations and encounters a rabid animal may have to be euthanized, or isolated in double enclosure quarantine for six months at the ownerís expense.

Many of Humboldt Countyís veterinarians offer low cost shot clinics, and residents are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this service. These clinic dates are announced to the public every spring. Contact your veterinarian or the Humboldt-Del Norte Veterinary Medical Association at 822-2402 for additional information on upcoming clinics. Know your petís vaccination dates and keep them currently vaccinated.

Other important safety measures include avoiding contact with wild and stray animals, reporting animal bites to your county or municipal animal control officer, instructing children to not touch a wild or stray animal and report it to an adult, washing animal bites immediately with soap and water and seeking medical attention, bat proofing homes and outbuildings, and bringing pet foods indoors at night to keep skunks, raccoons, opossum, and fox from becoming uninvited visitors on your porch. Questions about rabies should be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Environmental Health. Contact the Vector Control Desk at (707) 268-2203, the main desk at (707) 445-6215, or toll free at 1 (800) 963-9241. Call one of these numbers if you have a bite from a skunk, fox, or a bat or have found a bat in your home. Help protect your family and community by being aware of the presence of rabies and knowing how to reduce the risk of exposure.

 

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