Human rabies, a rare case found within the United States, has steadily made reports in upstate New York after five residents in Rochester were bitten by a fox earlier this week that has since tested positive for rabies.
“The number of people that got bit by this individual rabid fox is probably higher than usual,” regional wildlife manager Mike Wasilco said. “I mean, usually one or two people get exposed to an individual animal. In this case, there was a fox that was able to move around multiple people in a neighborhood.”
Those who were bitten are receiving numerous medical treatments to ensure symptoms do not worsen, as rabies symptoms begin it is almost always a fatal result.
"Rabies is a virus that it's spread generally by saliva or other body fluids,” Wasilco said. “Once the symptoms show up, it's like a 95% death rate. And even if you do survive, the few people that have survived having rabies have permanent long-term neurological issues. You know, you never fully recover if you do survive."
According to officials, most rabies cases found are typically associated with household pets, after the animal has been bit by a rabid animal without the owners realizing it.
"The most important thing is to comply with the state law that requires cats and dogs and ferrets to be vaccinated for rabies,” Wasilco said. “So make sure you keep it up on the boosters."
He is finding that most cases of rabies originate from numerous types of animals.
"The most common are bats,” Wasilco said. “They can carry rabies and have them for a long time without any symptoms. The other species that are most commonly seen with rabies are skunks, raccoons and foxes. Those are what we consider the rabies vector species. But really almost any mammal can develop rabies. Everything from otter, beaver to even in this region, we generally have two to five deer test positive for rabies each year.”
Despite reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of deaths from rabies is steadily declining, Wasilco hopes all residents in New York still take precautionary measures to ensure their safety around animals.
“This is the first case of rabies confirmed this year,” Wasilco said. “It's very important to prevent getting infected. And if you've been exposed to make sure you get treatment, prevent yourself from developing rabies.”
For more information on potential exposure, treatment or access to free rabies vaccination clinics you can visit health.ny.gov.