A rabid fox has attacked several residents in recent days in the Hudson Valley city of Peekskill, New York, leading to widespread rabies fears in the community. Health officials are urging vigilance and have shared information on rabies risks and prevention.
Additional Rabid Fox Attack Victims Come Forward
After an initial report of a rabid fox attacking two people in Peekskill on January 11th, two more victims have now come forward after likely being bitten by the same fox.
The fox was first reported to have bitten a man and woman on Depew Avenue. The fox was killed and tested positive for rabies. Since then, a 32-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman contacted health officials about fox bites that occurred in the same area around the same timeframe. Both are receiving preventative rabies treatment.
Due to the danger of rabies, authorities are taking these incidents very seriously. City officials and state health experts strongly urge anyone else who has been bitten, scratched, or had other contact with a fox in Peekskill recently to immediately contact their doctor and the Westchester County Health Department. Quick treatment is essential even if symptoms have not yet appeared.
Rabies Virus Highly Fatal Without Fast Treatment
Rabies is an aggressive virus spread through the saliva of infected animals. It attacks the central nervous system. Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal. However, modern vaccines and medicines can prevent the illness if given promptly after exposure.
“Thanks to effective preventive treatment, over the last 100 years rabies has been brought under control and deaths are now very rare,” said Westchester County Health Commissioner Cheryl Archbald. “But you have a short window to get life-saving medicine so that’s why fast reporting of animal bites is critical.”
Rabies symptoms typically take 2-3 months to develop but the incubation period can vary from under a week to over a year after an exposure. Initial signs can include fever, headache, fatigue, confusion, and general discomfort or unease. As the disease progresses, additional symptoms arise like anxiety, paralysis, hallucinations, excessive salivating, trouble swallowing, fear of water, and insomnia.
Once clinical signs emerge, survival is extremely unlikely. But the effectiveness of pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis means rabies is 100% preventable if treatment begins before symptoms appear.
Rabies Shots Recommended Based on Exposure Risk
Health providers assess several factors to decide if rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is warranted. These include:
- Type of contact
- Animal involved
- Rabies presence in the region
- Ability to observe/test the animal
Bites and scratches pose the highest risk. Simply seeing or petting an animal does not warrant shots. Wild animals like foxes do transmit rabies more frequently than pets or livestock. However, any mammal can carry the disease.
Medical evaluation is recommended for all exposures. Doctors then weigh specifics like wound location, depth, and health status of the person involved to guide preventative treatment. In unclear cases, observation or testing of the animal can clarify if rabies shots are needed.
Rabies Awareness Steps Advised After Fox Incidents
The fox attacks sparked county and city officials to spread information so residents can protect themselves and pets. Recommendations include:
- Avoid wild or unfamiliar animals
- Vaccinate pets
- Call police about strangely acting wildlife
- Report bites/scratches immediately
- Reduce food sources drawing wild animals closer to homes
Children should be cautioned not to touch or feed wild creatures. Feeding bans specific to groundhogs and deer have also been suggested to limit disease transmission risks.
Officials plan to distribute notices to residents about rabies dangers while stepping up monitoring for additional infected animals. Setting traps and population reduction measures for rabies vector species like raccoons may also be implemented.
Rabies Shots Expected to Continue Amid Ongoing Precautions
With two attack victims already receiving shots and two more now getting treatments, concerns remain heightened after the incidents involving the rabid fox. No subsequent aggressive wildlife encounters have yet been announced in the city.
Nonetheless, the unease surrounding a rabies outbreak, though limited so far, will likely prompt officials to maintain vigilant messaging about risks and prevention tips. This includes continuing strong recommendations for medical assessment after any potential exposures involving bites, scratches or contact with saliva from potentially infected animals like foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes or stray cats and dogs.
Residents are asked to report any suspicious animal behaviors while keeping household pets up to date on their rabies vaccines. Further proactive population control steps may also continue if wildlife conflicts increase. Ultimately, the goal remains allowing prompt preventative care that can make the difference between life and death in the event of additional rabies exposures.
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