Rabid fox bites woman, dog near Sea Ranch

A wild fox that bit a woman and a dog in the Sea Ranch area of Sonoma County tested positive for rabies last week, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services said.

The fox bit the woman in September on the east side of Sea Ranch and she received vaccinations to prevent rabies, Sonoma County Deputy Health Officer Karen Holbrook said.

A fox bit the dog in mid-October, and the dog’s owner was possibly exposed to blood and saliva from the fox while he was tending to his dog, Holbrook said. The dog received a booster rabies vaccination.

A California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden who captured the fox also was potentially exposed to rabies, but it’s not believed the exposure was significant, Holbrook said.

The fox tested positive for rabies on Oct. 17.

Rabies, a fatal viral disease, is spread by the bite of a rabid animal or when the animal’s saliva contacts a person’s mouth, eyes or an open sore.

The incidents prompted the Department of Health Services to remind residents to make sure their domestic pets are up to date on rabies vaccinations and keep children and pets from approaching or touching wild or strange animals.

Signs of rabies in animals include staggering, restlessness, aggression and a change in tone of barks or growls or choking. Passive animals become fierce and aggressive and nocturnal animals with rabies sometime appear during the day, the Department of Health Services said.

People or animals that are bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid animal should immediately wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention.

Preventive care also includes a specific protocol for rabies vaccinations.

Human cases of rabies are scarce in the United States. Bats are the animal that most commonly have rabies, but skunks, foxes raccoons and unvaccinated domestic animals also can develop rabies.

About four animals test positive for rabies in Sonoma County each year, Holbrook said.