Fox attack outside Nome school injures child sparks rabies concerns

Rabid fox attacks girl in Nome outside the school.
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 10:33 PM AKST
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NOME, Alaska (KTUU) - A rabid fox attacked a child in Nome this week, exposing the child to the deadly rabies virus.

The attack occurred on Tuesday outside of Nome Elementary School, according to environmental health specialist of Norton Sound Health Corporation Alicia Reitz.

According to Reitz, tests confirmed the animal carried the rabies virus.

The unfortunate incident serves as an important reminder to be on the lookout for infected animals.

In Alaska, encounters with rabid animals are usually with foxes and occur most often through the months of November to March, but the reason why encounters are more frequent during that time proves hard to answer.

“Historically, that’s when we see more foxes testing positive or being around people and being aggressive towards people. So that could be due to environmental factors. It could be something more biological — it’s really hard to say right now,” Reitz said.

Reitz also recommends that people keep their distance from animals that may be infected with rabies, and to vaccinate their dogs in order to prevent rabies cases, as pets are much more likely to contract rabies than humans.

Most rabies vaccinations given to humans in Alaska are done so after contracting the virus from a dog that may have had contact with a fox.

“Vaccinating your dogs is gonna be the best immune barrier for rabies. Keep dogs tied up or inside, and try not to let them run loose all the time, or unattended,” Reitz said.

The fox involved in Tuesday’s attack was killed shortly after, according to Reitz. It was first ran over by a vehicle, then dispatched with a knife in order to preserve the brain for testing.

Experts advise that if someone has to put down an animal that is believed to be infected with rabies, the animal’s head should be left intact in order to preserve the brain, which is needed in order to determine whether or not the animal was infected — they should not be shot in the head.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease that is contracted by a bite or scratch from a rabid animal. The virus can be spread to people or their pets and attacks the nervous system. Experts say that if someone is attacked or scratched by a wild animal, they should wash out the injury with soap and water and seek medical care as soon as possible.