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Woman bitten by rabid fox in Jefferson County

November 23, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County logged its 10th rabies case in a year last weekend when a woman walking on a trail on Blue Ridge Mountain was bitten by a rabid fox, health officials said.

The 10 confirmed rabies cases in the county in the past 12 months is about normal, although it is sort of unusual that three foxes have tested positive for the disease, said Judi Rice, a sanitarian for the Jefferson County Health Department.

The number appears to suggest rabies is traveling through the county's fox population, which can happen occasionally, Rice said.

"It's kind of a cycle thing," Rice said.

The other rabies cases in the county have included six rabid raccoons and a rabid bat, Rice said.

The woman, who was bitten last weekend, was walking on the Ridge to River Trail on the Rolling Ridge Retreat property at the end of Mission Road, said Rosemarie Cannarella, health officer for the health department.

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The woman was walking on the trail on Saturday about 4 p.m. when she saw the fox, which at first appeared normal, Cannarella said.

The fox suddenly attacked the woman, biting her in the ankle, Cannarella said.

The woman was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., to begin a series of rabies shots, Cannarella said.

Rabies falls into two categories - dumb rabies and furious rabies, according to the health department.

Animals that suffer from dumb rabies exhibit behavior such as acting shy, hiding or acting unusually approachable, Cannarella said.

Animals that have furious rabies are excitable, irritable, aggressive or lose all caution for natural enemies, Cannarella said.

Another sign of rabies is that animals that are usually active only at night - such as raccoons, foxes and skunks - become active in the day, Cannarella said.

When someone approaches a normal, healthy animal, the animal's first response should be to run away, Cannarella said. If it does not, anyone near the animal should move away quickly, Cannarella said.

In Berkeley County this year, three raccoons, a skunk and a cat have tested positive for rabies, said Jim Barnhart, a sanitarian at the Berkeley County Health Department.

That is about a normal amount of rabies cases for Berkeley County, Barnhart said.

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