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Test confirms fox that bit Kiski Township boy had rabies

About Brian C. Rittmeyer
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Rabies facts

• Rabies is a viral disease affecting the nervous system. It usually is transmitted to humans through the saliva of an infected animal.

• In Pennsylvania, between 300 and 350 animals annually are confirmed to have rabies. In 2010, more than half were raccoons, followed by skunks (14 percent), cats (14 percent), bats (7 percent) and foxes (6 percent).

• Human cases of rabies are rare in the state; the last diagnosed human case was in 1984.

• The incubation period for rabies in people is three to eight weeks, but can be as short as one week to as long as nine years. It is never too late to seek medical attention for potential rabies exposure.

• In people, rabies symptoms include irritability, fatigue, headache, fever and pain or itching at the exposure site. It eventually progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, seizures, delirium and death. Once symptoms appear, rabies rarely can be successfully treated and virtually all cases are fatal.

• If bitten by an animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and warm water and seek medical care. Human rabies vaccine may be prescribed. The vaccine is a series of four shots given in the arm, or thigh for small children. Rabies vaccine is highly effective in preventing the disease after an exposure if given before any symptoms develop.

• For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health


By Brian C. Rittmeyer

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013, 4:27 p.m.

The last time Steve Peace dealt with a fox on his property, it was chasing his chickens. He shot and killed it.

On Monday morning, another fox attacked. This time, it went for and bit into his 7-year-old son, Blaze, just outside their Kiski Township home.

“That animal attacked a kid. That's amazing,” Peace said on Thursday. “I experienced a lot in my life. I never experienced anything like that.”

The family found out on Wednesday why the fox was so bold — it was rabid.

Because he shot and killed this fox inside his house, potentially exposing everyone to the animal's tainted saliva, Pearce, son Blaze, wife Michelle and daughter Grace, 11, all have begun receiving a series of rabies shots.

The Game Commission picked up the fox, spokesman Tom Fazi said. The state Department of Agriculture tested the animal, which came back positive for rabies, he said.

“Any time we get a report of a sick animal that has had human contact or contact with a confined pet, we will submit it for testing,” Fazi said.

Prior to this incident, 18 foxes had tested positive for rabies statewide this year; this is the first in Armstrong County, Fazi said.

Peace said it was around 10:30 a.m. Monday when Blaze went outside the family's house at Edmon and Blacks Hollow roads to retrieve a book bag from a truck. He had taken one step out the door and was on the porch when he saw a fox near the family's cat.

Blaze “said he thought it was going to eat the cat,” Peace said. “He hollered for the cat to run.”

The fox jumped at Blaze instead. The boy turned to run inside, and the fox bit him on the back of his left leg, latching on as he went indoors.

Peace said he was in the bathroom when he heard the commotion from the living room. He said the fox stayed on his son's leg until his wife, Michelle, kicked it off.

The fox then went on a rampage, shredding the family's couch. Peace, a hunter, said he retrieved a rifle and shot the fox dead as it tried to escape out a window.

“It was mean. It was definitely rabid,” Peace said. “If it was not rabid it would not have come within 100 feet of us, let alone just charge and attack like that. That was just insane.”

Blaze's wound was about four inches long and an inch deep; it took about 10 stitches at the hospital to close.

Peace said he suspects the fox that he shot a month ago chasing his chickens also was rabid.

“It wasn't afraid of us at all,” he said. “It chased the chickens to within 10 feet of us.”

Kiski Township police did not return calls for comment.

Fazi said the Game Commission does not have plans to do anything more as a result of the rabid fox.

“It's a pretty common wildlife disease. Folks who live in the country are already aware of that — they know when an animal is not acting healthy,” he said.

Fazi said residents should be vigilant and call the commission's Southwest Region office in Fairfield at 724-238-9523 if they see anything suspicious.

Peace said he's concerned that there could be more rabid foxes out there.

“If I shot two males, there's definitely two females. That's just life,” he said.

Peace said the rabies shots aren't painful, just inconvenient, but the family doesn't have a choice.

“It's not fun,” he said.

Staff writer Liz Hayes contributed to this report. Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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