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

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 7/14/2009
Subject: Additional Fox Attacks Prompt Added Concern for Vaccinations
Contact: Kevin Metcalfe, Supervising Environmental Health Specialist, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215

Rabid fox attacks on persons and pets in Humboldt County continue to occur and remain a threat to public health. Health officials are urging Humboldt County residents to vaccinate their pets and keep them current on vaccinations.

Nationwide, fox attacks are very rare. However, locally, in the past month, there have been four known attacks. So far this year between Jan. 1 and June 29, 21 animals have tested positive for rabies. That compares to nine for the entire year last year.

On June 21st, a man watering his garden was attacked and bitten by a fox that subsequently tested positive for rabies. On June 24th, a woman exiting a car was attacked and bitten by a fox that ran away. Both these attacks occurred in the Jacoby Creek and South Quarry Road area of the county. Also, on June 27th a man with his family was attacked and bitten multiple times by a fox in the Trinidad area on Scenic Drive. The fox in this attack tested positive for rabies. The persons exposed in these incidents are receiving rabies exposure treatment.

On June 30th, a small dog and two cats were chased and attacked by a fox on Ernest Way in the Arcata area. Since the dog and cats were not current on rabies vaccinations, they will be quarantined for six months at the owner’s premises. The number of incidents and positive rabid animals remains an epidemic. In each of these incidents, the person involved did the correct thing by seeking medical attention, detaining the animal where possible, notifying local law enforcement, and contacting the Division of Environmental Health.

While the Arcata, Jacoby Creek, Sunny Brae and Fickle Hill areas remain a heightened concern for aggressive fox behavior and positive rabid foxes and skunks rabies is always a concern throughout the county.

We continue to encounter pet owners with dogs and cats that are not current on their rabies vaccinations or have no rabies vaccination history at all. This means they will have no to very little immunity to rabies when there has been an encounter with a wild animal especially with a fox, skunk, or bat. Should a domestic animal develop rabies, the risk of human exposure to the rabies virus increases.

We rely on the pubic to be informed and to take the following measures to protect themselves and their pets:

1. Avoid contact with wild animals, including feral cats. Do not encourage them around your home by feeding them or improperly storing garbage.
2. Report aggressive wild animals and stray animals to local law enforcement.
3. Vaccinate dogs, cats and select livestock against rabies. Keep vaccinations current.
4. Obtain medical care promptly if bitten by any animal.
5. Report bites from domestic animals to county or city animal control and bites from wild animals to Environmental Health.
6. For schools and daycare facilities, add policy and procedures for handling stray or wild animals. Instruct children to keep away and report them to an adult.

Rabies in humans can be prevented either by eliminating exposures to rabid animals or by providing exposed persons with prompt local treatment of wounds combined with rabies post exposure treatment. Questions regarding possible exposures should be directed promptly to the Public Health Branch or the Environmental Health Division.

Rabies is a frightening disease. But the anguish caused from contact between an unvaccinated pet and a possible rabid animal is entirely avoidable. Consult with your veterinarian on the frequency for re-vaccination.

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 at (707) 445-6215, or toll free at 1 (800) 963-9241. Call one of these numbers if you or your pet has 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.


 Humboldt County Rabies Positive Animals & Human-Animal Attacks (Thru July 13, 2009) Adobe PDF Document
Author: Ron Largusa

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