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Rabid fox cause for concern

By By Bill Crist, Special to The Advance
Tests results received Wednesday afternoon confirmed that a fox that bit a Brewton woman in the Alco area on Tuesday afternoon was rabid. The bite, the second by a rabid animal in Escambia County since July 18, means the woman faces treatment that includes a series of shots.
According to Dr. Joe Terrell, a Brewton physician, there is a protocol that would be followed before and after the victim was brought to the hospital.
If treatment was started, doctors would begin the victim on a series of shots, Terrell said.
Treatment consists of a series of five shots, which are administered in the arm. The drug used is an immune globulin for humans, HRIG, said Terrell. There are three shots given in the first week, and then one at 14 days and the final shot at 28 days after the attack.
The fox involved in last Tuesday's attack was reportedly hiding under a parked vehicle. After biting the woman, it was captured and on Wednesday morning, its head was sent to the Public Health Laboratory in Mobile for testing. According to Escambia County Rabies Inspector John Bagwell, results usually take two days to come in, but in the case of a human bite, that can sometimes be moved up, as was the case last week.
In the July 18 attacks, which occurred in Flomaton, two dogs were attacked and bitten. One of the dogs bitten had been vaccinated against rabies, but the other had not. According to Bagwell, animals that have been bitten by a rabid animal are usually euthanized. Animals that have been vaccinated are re-vaccinated, any injuries are treated, and they are returned to the owners.
According to Bagwell, the fox in Flomaton was the first confirmed case of a rabid animal in Escambia County in the past several years. He said that there was a confirmed case in Jay earlier this year, though.
While the recent bites don't necessarily point to a trend in our county, they do serve as a reminder that people need to be cautious around unfamiliar animals, Bagwell said.
Bagwell said if a stray fox, or other animal, comes into a homeowner's yard, the best course of action is to get into the house and call the animal control officer. Other wild animals that are prevalent in our area, and pose the risk of carrying rabies, are skunks and raccoons.
According to William B. Johnston, D.V.M, the state's public health veterinarian, stray and wild animals carry a growing potential for spreading the disease.
Between 1994 and 2000, there were 641 animal bites/exposures investigated by the Escambia County Health Department. During that same time frame, there were 72 confirmed cases of rabid foxes in the state. There were also 388 cases of rabid skunks, eight rabid dogs and 13 cases of rabid cats.
If bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal, it is suggested that the victim was the wound with soapy water for 10 minutes and then see a doctor immediately. No attempts should be made to capture the animal. Rather, it is recommended that officials at the animal control center be contacted.
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