Rabid fox a reminder to vaccinate pets

After it may have made contact with the first confirmed rabid fox in five years, a local pet faces months of quarantine.

Tests on a fox found dead outside a Trail-area home last weekend have come back positive for rabies, according to Jackson Baures of Jackson County Health and Human Services.

A house cat that may have come into contact with the fox while it was outside the night of Sept. 29 is currently undergoing a six-month home quarantine, according to Baures, who added that the pet wasn't up-to-date on its vaccinations.

Unvaccinated pets that come into contact with a rabid animal are required to be euthanized or undergo the quarantine, Baures said.

The owners reported hearing the sound of cats fighting from inside their home that night, according to Baures. It's not certain the cat came into contact with the fox, so the owners are opting for quarantine.

“We certainly want to be cautious,” Baures said.

The county public health agency doesn't release addresses or streets where rabid animals are found, but Baures said that sharing information about cases is "more of a reminder" for people to vaccinate their pets.

Baures said one or two rabies cases are typical for Jackson County in a year, but the last rabies case involving a fox was in 2012.

Dr. Emilio DeBess, the State Public Health Veterinarian with Oregon Health Authority, said that Jackson and Josephine counties have "historically been a fox-positive area for rabies."

Since 2010, all cases of rabies involving foxes have been the same strain as coming from bats.

"We don't have terrestrial rabies," DeBess said. "These foxes are just having contact with bats."

Jackson County had two confirmed cases of rabies involving bats in 2016, one in July and one in October, according to Oregon Health Authority reports. Three rabies cases were confirmed in 2015, none in 2014, one in 2013 and two in 2012.

Baures said fox-related cases are rarer because more steps are involved in a conclusive test result for foxes than bats. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has to transport the animal's body before it deteriorates, for example.

As part of a partnership with the ODFW and Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed the fox found Sept. 30 had rabies.

Some may be tempted to handle a sick animal because it is suffering, but DeBess said that wild animals should be left alone and pets should be kept separate. Signs of rabies in wildlife include animals no longer afraid of people and fighting with other animals. 

Jackson County Health and Human Services advises those finding a sick bat or other wildlife acting strangely on their property to bring children and pets indoors immediately. Anyone scratched or bitten by a suspected rabid wild animal should clean wounds and seek medical attention immediately. If a pet comes in contact with a rabid animal, contact a veterinarian right away.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Share This Story