Rabies Case Confirmed Here
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed last week a fox that was involved in a squabble with a dog in Brush Creek Township was indeed infected with the rabies virus.
Dawn Dilling, domestic animal health inspector from the Department of Ag’s Altoona office, stated the red fox was tested on July 7 with “positive” results. Following up on Dilling’s report, local Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Kevin Mountz said the fox had gone to a neighbor’s home and possibly had contact with another dog before wandering onto the adjacent property on Papertown Road, where it bit the tongue of an unvaccinated dog.
The dog, according to Mountz, had been chained to a doghouse when it was bitten by the rabid animal during the afternoon hours on July 2. The fox was killed and sent to the state Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg for testing. The unvaccinated dog was set to be euthanized due to exposure, he said.
Pennsylvania law mandates all dogs and nonferal cats over the age of three months must undergo rabies vaccinations. Booster vaccinations must be given periodically to maintain lifelong immunity. The rabies vaccine is also available for other species.
Early symptoms of rabies in humans are “nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation and hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention adds that death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
Early signs of rabies in animals include changes in personality ranging from stuporous to unusually aggressive. Paralysis of the throat muscles is also a common sign of rabies, which causes an excess of saliva and an inability to swallow.
The incubation period of rabies varies depending where on the body an animal has been bitten. However, individuals that believe their pet may have been infected are urged to isolate the animal and contact their veterinarian the same day for an examination. Additional assistance can be obtained as well by contacting the Departments of Agriculture and Health.
Furthermore, if residents suspect a wild animal has been infected, the animal should be killed humanely without damaging the head. While wearing plastic or rubber gloves, the head should be placed in a sealed container and refrigerated with ice. Do not use dry ice, and do not freeze it. Game Commission representatives from the Southcentral Regional Office should be contacted immediately by calling 814-643- 1831.
Veterinarians can also explain procedures to have an animal delivered to a qualified laboratory for testing. Testing is free of charge from the state Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg at 717-787-8808.
As a general reminder, WCO Mountz stated residents should refrain from any type of contact with or handling of wild animals, especially rabies vector species such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, groundhogs and bats. Contact can be as simple as a scratch, bite or getting saliva on a finger and rubbing your eye, Mountz noted, which in turn becomes human exposure.
The officer also highly suggested avoiding contact with wild or feral cats, which are coincidentally tied with skunks as the second-leading carrier of rabies in the commonwealth.
This month’s incident in Fulton County increases the number of recorded cases of rabies here to two. A raccoon previously tested positive for rabies between January 1 and May 31. Last year, Fulton County had a total of three confirmed cases of rabies, which included two raccoons and one skunk.
The state Veterinary Laboratory maintains records for rabies diagnostic testing dating back to 1900. The lowest number of recorded cases in the commonwealth occurred in 1964 when only 11 rabies specimens were identified statewide. In comparison, a total of 902 animals tested positive for rabies in 1944.