According to a press release the Allegany County Health Department has confirmed four incidences of rabies in foxes in the LaVale area since April, with the most recent case identified on October 5 on Mt. Savage Road. Other confirmed cases occurred on Avondale Avenue (April 16), Braddock Road (May 10), and near the narrows in lower LaVale (August 19). In each case, a rabid fox approached humans or their pets in broad daylight and was acting aggressively.
Rural western Maryland has a wide variety of wildlife, and encounters with native animals are common, but health officials want to remind the public that it is never a good idea to approach any wild animal, especially if it appears to be injured or ill.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. In Maryland, rabies is found most often in raccoons, skunks, foxes, cats, bats, and groundhogs. Other mammals, including dogs and farm animals, can also get rabies. The rabies virus spreads through the saliva of an infected animal, most commonly through animal-to-animal or animal-to-human bite. It is important to remember that an animal with the rabies virus may be able to spread the virus without showing any signs of the disease. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.
Signs and symptoms of rabies include changes in the animal’s behavior such as unusual friendliness or aggressiveness; nocturnal animals being unusually active during the day; and staggering, excessive drooling, or even paralysis.
Prevention: Immunization is the Key!
Per Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 10.06.02.10, owners or custodians of dogs, cats, and ferrets shall have the animals adequately vaccinated against rabies by the time the animals are 4 months of age. One year later, animals must be given a second shot. After the first two vaccinations, booster doses of vaccine are needed every one to three years, depending on the vaccine. There are also rabies vaccines that are approved for use in horses, cattle, and sheep.
What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten/Exposed:
- Wash the wound with soap water. If available, use a disinfectant (such as povidone-iodine solution) to flush the wound.
- Seek medical attention promptly and be sure to report the bite or exposure to your local animal control agency, health department, or police.
- Rabies in humans is preventable if treated soon after an exposure. Treatment consists of a series of four vaccinations given in the arm over a one-month period. In addition, an injection of rabies immune globulin (RIG) is given at the time of the first vaccination; RIG is usually given around the wound.
- If possible, get the name, address, and phone number of the animal’s owner and find out if the animal is up to date on its rabies shots. If you can’t find the owner, remember what the animal looked like.
- If it is safely possible, capture or confine the animal. This will allow the animal to be tested. If the animal must be killed, try not to damage its head.
What to Do If Your Pet Has Been Bitten/Exposed:
- Do not touch the wild or stray animal which caused the bite and avoid touching your pet with bare hands.
- If your pet was in a fight with another domestic pet, get the owner’s name, address, and phone number and find out if the animal is up to date on its rabies shots.
- Consult your veterinarian and report the incident to your local animal control agency, health department, or police for further recommendations.
- Exposed pets must be quarantined for ten days. This is usually done at home.
For more information on rabies and vaccination clinics, call (301) 759-5038.