Fox infected with rabies found in Clanton

Published 4:52 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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A fox infected with the rabies virus was found in Thorsby early Wednesday morning.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said the Clanton Police Department received a call around 8 a.m. from a resident on Old Thorsby Road who reported seeing a fox “acting strangely” near a speed limit sign.

“The fox was acting out of its head barking, growling and being real aggressive,” Stilwell said.

Clanton Animal Control Officer Chris Whittle responded to the call.

According to Stilwell, when Whittle arrived at the residence, the fox was gnawing on a tree.

In order to catch the fox, Whittle had to shoot him.

Dana Johnson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture based at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Services at Auburn University, met Whittle in Wetumpka to retrieve the fox to test it for rabies.

Johnson took the fox to Auburn to be tested and called CPD at 2 p.m. Wednesday to say the fox had tested positive for rabies.

Johnson has sent the fox to Atlanta to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The bad part of a fox is an animal like that doesn’t carry rabies,” Johnson said. “Whenever that happens you know a rabid raccoon had to get to it.”

Johnson explained that due to the strange behavior from the fox, the animal would have been exposed to a raccoon five to seven days ago.

“We now have to go find the raccoon who was carrying the virus,” Johnson said. “This fox was acting erratic and showing little to no fear of humans as well as biting itself. These are the stereotypical symptoms for an animal carrying the virus.”

The rabies virus attacks the neurological functions of an animal and if infected, the virus will go to its brain.

Johnson said, a fourth raccoon carrying the rabies virus was also found a couple of weeks ago in Thorsby near the Chilton County Research and Experiment Station.

This is the fourth raccoon since Jan. 28 found with the rabies virus in Chilton County.

Johnson said as of Wednesday, 24 rabies cases have been found between Jefferson, Shelby, Chilton and Autauga counties.

“I found a rabid raccoon in Autauga County on Friday so that is a new area that has popped up with a rabies case,” Johnson said. “The interesting part is the rabies cases are popping up in different areas throughout the state.”

The rabies virus carries two types of variance in the state of Alabama, one with raccoons and one with bats.

Any dog or cat food as well as trash outside will attract raccoons and Johnson encourages everyone to have their pets vaccinated against the rabies virus.

“The fox that was found obviously came into contact with a raccoon so if anyone has pets in that area, they need to make sure they have been vaccinated against the virus,” Johnson said.

Stilwell said if residents see an animal acting strange, don’t try to handle them or touch them.

“Let us come deal with it,” Stillwell said.

CPD received no reports of the fox harming anyone on Wednesday.

For anyone who has been exposed, or may have been exposed, including their pets, should call the local health department.

Anyone those living in Chilton County, call Johnson at (334) 844-5670 and report any rabies cases or raccoon sightings. Anyone with a human or domestic animal case should also call the Chilton County Health Department at 755-1287.