ELLERBE — County health officials urge residents to be on the lookout for strange animals after a rabid fox bit a man last week.
According to Health and Human Services Director Dr. Tommy Jarrell, the man was bitten Friday, Aug. 14 by an aggressive fox on Spruce Street in Ellerbe.
A deputy with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office responded and euthanized the fox, he said.
Jarrell said his office was contacted Tuesday afternoon and notified that the fox tested positive for rabies.
The man who was bitten began treatment Friday evening, according to Jarrell.
He also encourages all pet owners to make sure their animals are up to date on rabies vaccinations.
There were six cases of rabies in Richmond County from September 2015-April 2016 involving both foxes and raccoons. The most recent case Jarrell could recall was in September of 2017, also involving a fox.
Other animals that often test positive are bats and skunks, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and rabies is present in the raccoon populations in “virtually every North Carolina County.
In June, State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said the summer was a good time to make sure both pets and livestock were vaccinated.
“In North Carolina, we see about five cases of rabies in livestock each year,” Troxler said in a press release. “Horses are naturally curious animals, which puts them at risk for a bite if a rabid animal gets through their fence line.”
State law “requires owners of dogs, cats and ferrets to have their pets currently vaccinated against rabies, beginning at four months of age,” according DHHS.
DHHS also has the following to say about the virus:
“The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. You can only get rabies by coming in contact with the saliva, tears or brain/nervous system tissue of an infected animal — for example, if you are bitten by a rabid animal, handle a pet that has been attacked by a rabid animal such as a fox, or are cleaning a dead animal you have killed while hunting.
“The number of human deaths attributed to rabies in the United States now averages just one or two each year. Most of those cases have been traced to bats. Bat bites can be difficult to detect and may not cause a person to wake from a sound sleep. To protect yourself from bat bites, do not sleep in a home, cabin, tent, shelter or other lodging facility if bats have access to the living space. If you awaken to find a bat in your room, tent, or cabin, it should be safely captured External link (do not release the bat!) and tested for rabies as quickly as possible, and you should seek medical advice immediately. This is also true if a bat is found in a room with an infant, young child, or a person with cognitive impairment, even if they are awake, as they may have been bitten but are unable to say so. Once you have secured the bat inside a room, call your local animal control for help. Never handle a bat or any dead animal with your bare hands.
“People who are bitten by a mammal or otherwise possibly exposed to rabies should first wash any wounds thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes and then seek immediate medical attention to prevent the development of fatal disease. A doctor will determine what treatment is needed, such as post-exposure vaccination. Bites should also be reported to the local health department External link, and animal control External link should be called immediately to ensure that the biting animal is captured and tested (wild or ill animal) or confined (healthy domestic animal).
“An exposure to rabies is an urgent situation: once symptoms appear, it is usually too late to start treatment, and the disease is nearly always fatal.”