Paul A. Nikas, Chief of Police
15 Elm St.
Ipswich, MA 01938
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Ipswich Warns Residents after Fox Tests Positive for Rabies
IPSWICH — Acting Chief of Police Jonathan Hubbard and Director of Public Health Colleen Fermon report that the Town of Ipswich is warning residents to be vigilant after a fox that attacked several people over the weekend tested positive for rabies and a second aggressive fox was killed by police on Monday.
On Saturday May 20, 2017 three Ipswich residents were bitten by a fox. Ipswich Animal Control Officers from the Ipswich Police Department and the Massachusetts Environmental Police were dispatched to the first incident but could not locate the animal. Officers thoroughly searched the area and spoke with residents both in the immediate area and on other streets where the fox was seen.
The fox was killed by a resident when he discovered the animal attacking one of his chickens. Ipswich Animal Control collected the fox and brought the animal to Bulger Veterinary Hospital in North Andover where the animal was prepared and sent to the Massachusetts State Laboratory Institute.
Earlier today, Ipswich Animal Control received confirmation from the state that the animal submitted for testing was rabid. The three bite victims were notified by the Massachusetts Department of Epidemiology. Those affected are receiving medical treatment.
Rabies is caused by a virus which is usually spread from animal to animal, but can also spread from an infected animal to a person. Rabies spreads when an infected animal bites another animal or person, or if their saliva gets into a scratch or wound, eyes, nose or mouth of another animal or person. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (brain inflammation and swelling) in all warm-blooded hosts and the outcome is almost always fatal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 90 percent of all animal rabies cases reported each year occur in wild animals. The most common animals that contract rabies include bats, raccoons, foxes, groundhogs and skunks.
It is rare for people in the United States to get rabies. Approximately 55,000 people die from rabies every year around the world, and only one or two of those deaths occur in the United States. However, any possible contact with rabies, including a bite, scratch or exposure to a rabid animal, should be taken seriously. Wounds can be so small that a person may not realize they have been infected.
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to avoid contact with wild animals. Do not feed or handle them, even if they seem friendly. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to animal control immediately.
According to the CDC, the following may be signs or symptoms that an animal may be rabid:
- Excessive Salivation (foaming at the mouth)
- Abnormal Behavior
- Ataxia (erratic body movements)
- Weakness or Paralysis
- Difficulty breathing/swallowing
Seeing a Fox out during the day is generally NOT an indication of rabies. Foxes are part of the wildlife backdrop of Cape Ann and it is not uncommon to see one. Foxes are not necessarily nocturnal, like raccoons.
“We are taking these cases very seriously, and awareness is our best weapon in this situation,” Acting Chief Hubbard said. “Please heed these warnings and seek medical attention if you have come into contact with a fox recently or if you are bitten by a fox or other wild animal.”
Tips for avoiding contact with Foxes:
1. If you see a fox in the daytime, it is not usually an indication of rabies. Healthy foxes can generally be out and about during the day. Seeing a fox in the daytime is not an automatic sign of danger, in the way seeing a raccoon in the daytime may be.
2. Foxes are naturally scared of people, so aggression or close approaches should be reported to the Ipswich Police Department.
3. Leash your pets if you know there are foxes in your neighborhood. Small cats and dogs are vulnerable to predatory attacks by a number of animals, including foxes, but if you are walking with your pet on a leash, the chances go down drastically.
4. Don’t leave pet food outside, and cover your trash. Foxes are scavengers, and they look for opportunities. A hungry fox will take food right off your doorstep or right out of your trash barrel.
5. Do not approach or pet foxes or fox pups. Do not feed them.
6. Keep bird feeders off the ground so that they cannot be easily reached. If you start to see foxes regularly, it’s best to remove bird feeders
7. It is illegal to discharge a firearm in populated areas. Do not shoot foxes or fire warning shots in the air.
The Ipswich Department of Public Health also reminds residents to be sure their pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Unvaccinated pets pose a significant risk to other animals and people, and may need to be quarantined for a prolonged period, or even euthanized, at the owner’s expense. Dogs and cats that are vaccinated, but have been exposed to animals that are unavailable for rabies testing, may need to receive a booster shot and/or be quarantined.
Questions about domestic animals that have been exposed to rabid animals should be directed to the Ipswich Police Department at 978-356-4343. General inquiries may be made via email to the Ipswich Animal Control Officer at [email protected]
Chief Paul Nikas is on vacation.