Bel Air, MD – April 8, 2009 – The Harford County Health Department has confirmed that a dead fox found in the immediate vicinity of where a fox attacked a dog over the past weekend has been tested and found to be positive for rabies. The incident occurred on Sunday, April 5th on or near the boardwalk of the Eden Mill Park in Pylesville, in northern Harford County.
The Health Department urgently is seeking to identify the owner of the dog in order to make certain that all necessary precautions are taken. Department officials also are reaching out to any other persons with knowledge that they, their children or their or pets might have had direct contact with this fox. Anyone with information is requested to call the Harford County Health Department at 410-838-1500.
The importance of attempts to reach the dog’s owner is twofold. First and foremost is concern over the possibility of indirect exposure to the rabies virus by the dog’s owner. Since the virus remains viable in the fox’s saliva for up to two hours, it potentially could have been introduced into an open wound or a mucous membrane upon handling the dog immediately after the dog’s altercation with the fox.
Secondly it is imperative that the dog be properly managed. The Health Department needs to review its rabies vaccination history, confirm administration of a booster dose and verify that appropriate quarantine or isolation arrangements are applied.
Rabies is a fatal disease caused by the rabies virus. The virus typically exists in the saliva of infected animals. These animals spread the virus to humans and other animals most commonly through bites or scratches. People can also become infected if their mouth, eyes, nose, or open cuts and wounds come into contact with animal saliva containing the rabies virus. Once in the bloodstream, the virus travels slowly to the brain where it causes severe inflammation. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, confusion, severe muscle spasms, abnormal behavior, and agitation, leading quickly to death.
The incubation period in humans is typically 3-8 weeks. In the event it is necessary, a series of five rabies shots given soon after an exposure will prevent rabies. However, once symptoms of rabies have begun, the vaccine is no longer effective and the disease is almost universally fatal. Therefore, it is very important to begin the rabies shots as soon as possible after exposure.
According to Dr. Yngvild Olsen, the Chief Medical Officer for the Harford County Health Department, post-exposure treatment is necessary for everyone who has been bitten, scratched, or come into contact with the saliva of a rabid animal. “This is an extremely serious situation,” states Dr. Olsen. “Given the severity of the disease, the timing of the public’s potential exposure to this fox several days ago, and the window of opportunity for successful prevention of rabies, it is urgent that the owner of the dog notify the Health Department immediately (at 410-838-1500) to ensure proper medical and veterinary intervention,” she continued.
For more information concerning rabies, visit the Harford County Health Department website at :http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com.