JACKSONVILLE — A dead fox found at a home near Jacksonville last month tested positive for rabies late last week, Jackson County Environmental Public Health officials reported.
It is the first fox to test positive for the disease in Jackson County since 1994, though several foxes have tested positive in Josephine County in recent years.
— Loss of muscular coordination
— Excessive drooling
— No fear of unfamiliar humans
Wild animals exhibiting any of these symptoms should be reported to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 1-866-968-2600.
The fox was found Nov. 27 and tested positive for rabies at Oregon State University's Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory in Corvallis on Nov. 29.
"The cause of death is not definitely known," said Jackson County Environmental Public Health manager Jackson Baures.
A house cat with bite wounds, presumably from the fox, was nearby. The cat was vaccinated for rabies and is under quarantine at the home where the fox was found. It will be monitored over the next six months.
Baures said he visited the cat Saturday and it seems be recovering.
Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system in mammals. Symptoms in animals include tiredness, loss of muscular coordination, tremors, aggressiveness, excessive drooling, disorientation and no fear of unfamiliar humans.
"The behavior changes significantly," said Dr. Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian for the Oregon Health Authority.
Wild animals exhibiting any of those symptoms should be reported to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 1-866-968-2600.
County health officials said the strain found in foxes originated in bats. The virus typically spreads to house pets when they are bitten by or bite another rabid animal. The disease's incubation period is slow, anywhere from three weeks to a month, state health officials said.
"It takes a while for the virus to replicate in the body," DeBess said. "It's not like the flu, where you see somebody and two or three days later you come up with it."
The disease is fatal without treatment. Health officials recommend pet owners vaccinate their animals against rabies. The vaccine typically costs about $20.
"The key here is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate," DeBess said.
Health officials suggest that homeowners feed pets indoors and keep garbage in secure containers to reduce the risk of attracting wild animals.
"We want to keep rabies in the wild animal population and not make a bridge to get into pets and humans," Baures said.
In addition, openings in houses, including attics, basements, crawl spaces and sheds, should be sealed to keep bats and other wild animals out.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.