A child was injured and a family exposed to infection last week after an attack by a rabid fox, local officials confirmed on Thursday.
The incident took place on the evening of October 30 near Gilliam Church Road in Elon, North Carolina, in a rural region of Alamance County.
A town of roughly 11,000 people, Elon is situated approximately 40 miles west of Durham. In an article published Thursday, local news station WFMY News reported that an unnamed 7-year-old girl was attacked by the rabid fox, causing undisclosed minor injuries.
The girl’s family, five members in total, were also exposed to rabies after the animal tested positive for the viral disease at a state lab after the attack.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines rabies as “a fatal but preventable viral disease” that can potentially “spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal.” The disease is most often found in wild animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes, but the agency stresses that most cases in humans are caused by bites from dogs that still carry it.
Speaking with WFMY, the child’s mother explained that the rabid animal attacked the young girl by attempting to bite through a pair of cowboy boots she was wearing. The girl’s 3-year-old brother was also close by at the time of the incident, but was not targeted. The mother further claimed that she and her husband had to kill the fox in order to get it off their daughter.
“The fox was sent to the North Carolina State Lab of Public Health in Raleigh and found positive for rabies,” Alamance County officials told The Charlotte Observer about the incident. “A family of five was exposed and sought out medical attention for post-exposure treatment.”
Officials also said they are now working to capture a stray cat in the area they believe could also have been infected with rabies. The county has seen four rabid animal incidents so far this year, up from only one that was reported in 2022, with one other incident also involving a fox that attacked a human.
Newsweek reached out to the Alamance County Health Department via email for comment.
Left unchecked or untreated after exposure, rabies “can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death.” The CDC advises individuals to make sure their pets are vaccinated against the virus, to avoid wildlife, and to seek medical attention soon after exposure to a rabid animal.
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This article by Thomas Kika was first published by Newsweek on 6 November 2023. Lead Image: A fox in captivity. A rabid fox attacked a young girl last week, injuring her and exposing her family to infection. LAUREN OWENS LAMBERT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES.