Health officials sound alarm after rabid animal attacks

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – Health officials are sounding the alarm after two rabid foxes attacked people in Christiansburg.

The Montgomery County Health Department said they’ve had several cases throughout the year — two of them recently.

“We had an individual who was attacked by a fox while they were sitting in their car with the door open,” said Gary Coggins, environmental health manager for the New River Health District. “Then another incident in the same general neighborhood involved a minor who was outside of their home, and they were attacked randomly by a fox in their driveway.”

Professionals from the Virginia Department of Health said rabies is deadly and should be taken seriously.

“Rabies is a terrible disease and it’s almost always fatal,” said Coggins.

Experts said if you do come into contact with the virus, there are actions you can take.

“Rabies is a very slow virus,” said Coggins. “It doesn’t travel to the brain very quickly so there is an opportunity to vaccinate people even after they’ve been exposed.”

While human cases are not as common, professionals said pets can be at risk. Luckily, doctors said there are ways to take precautions.

“Simple vaccination and keeping up with your rabies vaccination as required by law,” said Michael Nappier, a clinical associate professor at Virginia-Maryland Veterinary Medicine.

He said it’s the best way to prevent rabies in pets because if your pet is not vaccinated and gets infected, there is really nothing vets can do.

“Once you develop symptoms, it’s way too late,” said Nappier.

Nappier also said the biggest sign of a rabid animal is unusual behavior, like being outside in the daylight around humans.

The Virginia Department of Health said if you are bitten by any animal, to contact them at 540-585-3300, and to immediately seek medical care.

About the Author:

Thomas grew up right here in Roanoke and is a graduate of Salem High School and Virginia Tech.