Public Advised to Vaccinate Their Horses and Pets and Stay Away from Wildlife
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has received positive confirmation of rabies in a dead gray fox that was found in East Greenwich and submitted for testing on December 10. The dead animal was discovered in a barn located in the vicinity of Tillinghast and Frenchtown Roads on December 9. This is the same neighborhood where a suspected rabid fox had attacked several individuals last month. It is unknown how long the gray fox had been dead or if this is the same fox that bit East Greenwich residents in November. However, it is likely that the fox transmitted rabies to other animals in the area before it died.
The barn where the fox was found housed a horse that was not properly vaccinated against rabies. The horse has since been administered rabies vaccine and has been quarantined.
Finding rabies in wildlife is common and is one of the reasons why DEM prohibits people from possessing native wildlife and limits those who are authorized to rehabilitate sick or injured wildlife to those individuals who are properly trained and immunized against rabies.
Anyone who could have had potential contact with a fox or other wild animal in that area should contact the RI Department of Health's Division of Infectious Diseases at 222-2577 for evaluation. Any animal owner whose pet or other domestic animal may have had contact with a fox or other wild animal should report the contact to their animal control officer.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease. Humans and animals may be exposed to rabies through a bite, scratch, or direct contact where there is contamination of a scratch, abrasion, mucous membrane or fresh open wound with saliva from a rabid animal. Rabies infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease of the brain and death when untreated. Treatment of humans soon after exposure is effective in preventing rabies infection. No preventive treatment for animals is available; therefore prevention through proper vaccination is necessary.
Although there has not been a human case of rabies in Rhode Island since 1940, it is important that all Rhode Islanders take steps to protect themselves from rabies exposure. This positive rabies finding in an animal serves as a reminder to all Rhode Islanders that rabies remains prevalent throughout the state and that residents should continue to undertake sensible precautions. Those include: vaccinating pets, staying away from wildlife, securing garbage, not allowing pet animals to run loose, and not leaving pet food outside.
Rabid animals have been found in every community in Rhode Island except New Shoreham. The most commonly infected species include skunks, raccoons, foxes, woodchucks, and bats. Rabies virus is widespread among wildlife in Rhode Island; therefore contact with all wild mammals anywhere within the state should be avoided.
Protecting pets from rabies helps to maintain a barrier between humans and rabies in wildlife, and, under state law, dogs, cats, and ferrets must be maintained as currently vaccinated against rabies. Only a licensed veterinarian can administer the vaccine.
Wild animals that act aggressively or are noticeably sick should be reported to the DEM Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070 or to your local animal control officer.
For more information on rabies, visit the DEM website, www.dem.ri.gov, and click on "Topics" then "Public Health." Information is also available on HEALTH's website at http://www.health.ri.gov/diseases/rabies.