Oregon Public Health officials are warning people to protect themselves and their pets from rabies after finding a rabid goat and two foxes in Cave Junction in Josephine County.
Josephine County Public Health officials have confirmed that a second fox has tested positive for rabies in the Cave Junction area this month. The first fox was confirmed positive in January. Both foxes were found dead.
Officials want residents to be aware of the risk of rabies from foxes or other wildlife, which is rare. A more common disease that has similar clinical and behavioral signs in foxes, raccoons and skunks is canine distemper. Canine distemper is only infectious to animals in the canine and weasel families.
The fox that died in January was confirmed to have been infected with a bat strain of rabies. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, or skunks may also come into contact with domestic animals and put them at risk for contracting diseases like rabies, canine distemper, or an untimely death because they may become food. Health officials ask the public to leave wildlife alone in their natural habitats and report any sick or dead wild animals to your local Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office.
In Oregon, the last fox that tested positive for rabies was 10 years ago in Josephine County. Jackson, Curry and Coos Counties have also had foxes test positive for rabies. Over a 19 year period (1990- 2009) sick foxes that were submitted after showing clinical signs for rabies or distemper indicated, 26% (19 out of 72) have had confirmed rabies. Of the bats that were submitted sick or dead and tested from all parts of Oregon over the same period, 9.9% (160 out of 1631) have had confirmed rabies.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. It is transmitted by a bite from a rabid animal. Although human rabies is rare in the United States, where there are typically only two or three cases per year, animal bites are very common.
Most often, humans are exposed to rabies by picking up a seemingly injured bat. If you find a bat during daylight hours, it is most likely unhealthy and should be avoided.
Anyone bitten by a bat should be vaccinated for rabies immediately if the bat is not available for testing. Cats increase the risk by playing with bats and taking them into homes.
Every year about 10 percent of the bats tested for rabies test positive for the disease. Bats are tested for rabies only when a person or a pet has had physical contact with them.