New cases of rabies confirmed in Oregon foxes

    From state health and wildlife officials

    Tests in the last week confirmed two new cases of rabies in foxes in the Cave Junction area.

    This brings the total to nine cases of rabies in Josephine County since the beginning of 2010 (eight in the Cave Junction area and one in Merlin).

    People in the area should vaccinate their pets and report any strange wildlife behavior to ODFW at 1 (866) 968-2600.

    "In Oregon, dogs are required to be vaccinated against rabies. Cats are not, except in Multnomah County, but veterinarians strongly recommend they are also vaccinated," said Emilio DeBess, public health veterinarian, Oregon Health Authority.

    "Horse owners in the area of the outbreak should consider vaccinating their horses," added Don Hansen, state veterinarian, Oregon Department of Agriculture.

    Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that attacks an infected animal's nervous system. The rabies strain found in the foxes tested is from bats. Other strains of rabies found in the U.S. (skunk, fox, and raccoon) are not found in Oregon.

    Rabies symptoms in wildlife, particularly foxes and raccoons, include lethargy, walking in circles, loss of muscular coordination, convulsions, irritability or aggressiveness, disorientation, excessive drooling of saliva, and showing no fear of humans. Report this type of behavior to ODFW wildlife health hotline at 1-866-968-2600. (Residents of Josephine and Jackson counties can also contact their local ODFW office in Central Point at 541-826-8774.)

    Typically, animals acquire rabies by eating or coming in contact with a rabid bat. Very few bats in Oregon have rabies and rabies in other wildlife is even rarer. However, if you know your pet has encountered a bat or been bitten by a wild animal, contact your veterinarian immediately.

    In Oregon and much of the U.S., rabies is a disease of wildlife that occasionally spills over into domestic animals. It rarely results in human exposure and the risk to human health from a rabid wild animal is low. Minimize the risk and prevent other wildlife-related problems by doing the following:

    Vaccinate your pets.
    Watch wildlife from a distance. Don't approach or attempt to handle wild animals.
    Do not feed wild animals.
    Keep garbage in secure containers and away from wildlife.
    Feed pets indoors.
    Seal openings in attics, basements, porches, sheds, barns and screen chimneys that might provide access to bats and other wildlife.

    Agencies meet to discuss surveillance plan, future actions
    Yesterday, ODFW biologists and veterinarians met with representatives from Josephine County, the county's Public Health Department, City of Cave Junction, Oregon Department of Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agencies discussed the state of the disease in wildlife, ongoing surveillance and possible future actions.

    Throughout Oregon, ODFW routinely collects and tests all wild animals that exhibit neurological signs of rabies. ODFW also plans to increase surveillance for rabies by testing vehicle-killed and trapped wildlife in southwestern Oregon.

    "ODFW is increasing its monitoring for rabies in southwestern Oregon, investigating how the disease is spreading and trying to determine why foxes appear to be the most affected species in this current situation," said Colin Gillin, ODFW wildlife veterinarian. "We are concerned that the disease could be transmitted from fox to fox, which presents a greater risk to wildlife and pets, especially with the population of foxes high this year.

    We are also exploring management options for controlling the spread of this disease," Gillin added. "While vaccinating foxes in the area would be difficult, vaccinating pets is the best defense against spreading the disease in the pet population and ultimately exposing people to rabies through contact with their pets that venture outdoors."

    Josephine County Public Health plans will continue efforts to educate the public about rabies and promote pet vaccination.

    The first rabies incident in Cave Junction in 2010 was confirmed in a domestic goat last January. Since that time, seven foxes from Cave Junction and one from Merlin have tested positive for rabies. Testing took place at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory.

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