Case is second rabies infection in county
By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- A 78-year-old woman washing windows outside her home got an unpleasant surprise when a wild fox attacked and bit her on the upper thigh.
"The fox just came running up, jumped on me and bit me on one of my legs," said Mary Ellison, a resident of J & S Park Estates in Port Mayaca. "I was screaming for my husband, and he came out there and got the fox off."
Ms. Ellison went in the house, cleaned the wound and made an appointment to see her doctor the following day.
But about 20 minutes later, she would fall victim a second time to the same animal, according to Officer Kimberly Guile's Martin County Animal Control report.
After the first attack, the fox hid under a neighbor's shed. When Ms. Ellison went to that house to warn neighbors, the animal bit her again.
"(The) fox leaped up on her right hip, bit her and was hanging off her leg, growling the entire time," Officer Guile reported. "She was bit on the upper right thigh near the buttock and on her right ankle. She beat the fox over the head with the umbrella and it ran off again."
After Animal Control officers caught the fox, the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast euthanized it.
Officials from the Martin County Health Department said the fox later tested positive for rabies, a virus transmitted from the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Any mammal can get rabies, which is why Mrs. Ellison has had to have multiple vaccines to prevent infection.
"Honey, I couldn't count how many shots I've had," she said four days after the attacks. "It's probably between eight, 10 or 12. I don't know. I've lost count."
The fox was the second animal to test positive for rabies in the county this year.
A dog that tested positive in Palm City in May was revaccinated and placed in quarantine for 45 days.
"These are the only incidents we know about as of now, but we always issue the information so people could know what to look out for," said Renay Rouse, the health department's spokeswoman.
"It's always good to get the word out and let people know about it, but at this point, there does not appear to be a problem out there."
Officials said the most common rabies carriers are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes and coyotes. Domestic mammals can also get rabies, they said, with cats being the most frequently reported rabid domestic animal nationwide.
To help prevent infection, officials offer these tips:
Make sure pets are up to date with rabies vaccinations
Do not feed or handle wild animals
Do not touch dead animals. Use gloves to remove and dispose of them
Wash wounds with soap and water for at least five minutes, then call a doctor, if bitten.
For her part, Ms. Ellison said the attacks have left her and her neighbors in western Martin County alert and cautious.
"We've still got foxes out here. They would always run away. We didn't dream that one of them had rabies," she said. "You know if that one fox has rabies the others and the raccoons are most probably going to have it. Everybody is trying to be more than careful.
"Let everyone know to be careful," she said.
To report a suspected rabid animal, call Martin County Animal Control at (772) 463-3211.