An Eastpoint woman is being treated after being bitten by a rabid fox.
On Thursday, July 18, the county health department issued an alert after tests confirmed a fox that attacked a woman in Eastpoint Monday was infected with rabies.
The attack occurred when two homeowners were working in their yard near the end of North Bayshore Drive.
The woman went to Weems Memorial Hospital where her wounds were treated and was then sent to the health department by the attending physician.
Department spokesman David Walker said the health department has ordered rabies vaccine to treat the victim of the attack. Julie McKinney, director of nursing for Gulf and Franklin counties, said the woman must begin treatment for rabies within 10 days of being exposed.
“The cost of treatment is around $2,000,” she said.
Albert Floyd, director of animal control, said traps have been set on North Bayshore to catch additional foxes.
Doris Shiver Gibbs, who lives near the site of Monday’s attack, said a fox attacked her dog on Wednesday. She said the dog was on her porch. She went to check on it at about 2 p.m. when she heard a loud disturbance and found a fight in progress.
“The only thing between me and the fox was my dog,” she said.
Gibbs’ dog was current in its rabies vaccination. After the attack, Gibbs reported the incident to both animal control and the health department, and then took the dog to the Apalachicola Bay Animal Clinic in Eastpoint. It received a rabies booster shot and must now be quarantined for 45 days.
Dr. Hobson Fulmer director of the clinic said a booster is medically indicated for vaccinated animals any time rabies is suspected.
A neighbor found a fox believed to be the dog’s attacker the next day.
The fox was tested for rabies but results were inconclusive because the fox had been shot in the head. Brain material must be intact to be tested. Fulmer said when the presence of rabies cannot be confirmed in an attack the disease is always assumed to be present for public health reasons. He said the fox’s aggressive behavior, particularly during the day could be caused by rabies.
Fulmer said he plans a free clinic to vaccinate animals for rabies on Tuesday, July 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. An adult must accompany all animals. All dogs must be leashed and cats must be in a carrier for the animal’s safety.
Director of Solid Waste Fonda Davis, who oversees animal control, said he feared residents were destroying the foxes.
“That’s not helpful,” said Davis. “People need to stay away from the foxes and let animal control handle it. Don’t feed them and don’t shoot them.”
Gibbs’ said the population of foxes in the neighborhood is large. She believes some North Bayshore residents are feeding wild animals including foxes, raccoons and bears.
“I would like to see FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) and the county step up and help with the problem of these animals,” Gibbs said. “We are afraid to let our grandchildren out to play.”
Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus spread from animal to animal by a bite, scratch, or mucous membrane/open-skin exposure to the infected animal’s saliva. With possible rabies in humans, the injury is treated well before the onset of symptoms.
According to MayoClinic.com, treatment for persons exposed to rabies consists of a fast-acting shot to prevent infection, part of which is given near the bite, as soon as possible after the exposure. The first shot is followed by a series of rabies vaccines to help the body learn to identify and fight the rabies virus. Rabies vaccines are given as five injections in the arm over 14 days.
Under the “Cruelty to Animals” section of the Florida Statutes, dogs and cats over four months of age must be currently vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
The health department urges everyone to supervise companion animals when they are outdoors and stay away from stray or wild animals and dogs or cats that are not yours. Never touch a bat. Never feed raccoons or any wild animal. If your pet fights with a wild animal, put on rubber gloves before handling your pet. If a wild animal bites or scratches you or your pet, do not shoot the attacker in the head because damaged brains cannot be tested for rabies.
An exposed, unvaccinated cat or dog must be quarantined for six months or euthanized as they may develop rabies and become contagious during that time. Currently vaccinated dogs and cat must be quarantined for 45 days.
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water. Seek medical treatment and report the injury to the Franklin County Health Department at 653-2111. If the animal is a stray or wild animal, call Franklin County Animal Control at 670- 4733.