Three additional cases of rabies have been found in foxes in Josephine County this month, public health officials reported.

Three additional cases of rabies have been found in foxes in Josephine County this month, public health officials reported.

This month's cases bring to seven the total number of rabies cases this year, officials said in a news release.

Rabies was confirmed in foxes found on Nov. 5 and 17 in the Cave Junction area and on Nov. 18 in the Merlin area. Four previous cases of rabies in foxes were all in the Cave Junction area, as well.

Officials said an increase in gray fox populations and stepped-up rabies monitoring by wildlife authorities provide a possible explanation for the heightened number of cases. Before Josephine County's first fox with rabies was discovered in January, no confirmed cases of rabies in foxes had occurred in Oregon in a decade, previous news reports said.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. It can be found in wild and domesticated animals and is almost always caused by exposure to the saliva of an infected animal.

It is nearly always fatal in animals once symptoms begin. Human infections are extremely rare.