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Tests confirm fox that bit W.Va. girl was rabid

April 01, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The fox that bit an 8-year-old Martinsburg girl last weekend was rabid, said a Berkeley County Animal Control officer.

A Charleston, W.Va., lab told county officials Wednesday, the red fox that bit Desirae Hite on the arm March 26 had rabies, said Animal Control officer Randy Kenny.

Desirae and a group of friends were playing in a yard on Fairview Drive when she was attacked by the fox.

One of Hite's neighbors shot and killed the fox after the attack, but Kenny said there are still concerns that a second fox seen in the area when Hite was bitten might also have rabies.

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"We don't know for sure what happened to it. If a fox with rabies has a litter then the pups could (be rabid)," said Kenny.

The girl's mother, Pam, said neighbors saw the second fox on Sunday and said she has not heard whether it has been seen since then.

"We're hoping it got killed or took off someplace else. Our neighbor said it looked mangy and sick," said Hite.

The positive test results mean Desirae must get three more rabies shots over the next four weeks, said Hite.

Hite's husband, Michael, will also have to get a series of rabies shots since the fox's teeth cut across his thumb while he tried to break the animal's neck, she said.

A playmate, 8-year-old Jared Harper, tried to pull the fox off Desirae, then picked up a metal pipe and started swinging at the animal while other children ran for help. Pam Hite was able to pry the fox from her daughter's arm and held the animal to the ground until her husband arrived.

The fox attack was the second in Martinsburg in nine months. In July, an 8-year-old girl was bitten in her back yard.

Rabies travels through the nervous system and attacks the brain of warm-blooded animals. It is commonly carried by raccoons, skunks and bats.

Animals that infected with the virus can appear either unusually aggressive or stuporous and sluggish.

The disease, which is fatal if left untreated, has been spreading throughout the eastern states for several years and has been reported in many West Virginia counties.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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