After terrorizing a Chapin neighborhood, a fox is dead and health officials say it tested positive for rabies after it attacked several people and their pets on Monday. Officials are advising residents in Lexington County to avoid wild animals and vaccinate their pets.
According to a Lexington County Sheriff's Office incident report, a deputy was dispatched to the 1600 block of Chapin Rd. after a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a fox that was foaming at the mouth outside the Chapin Pawn Shop.
A short time later, a woman who lived nearby reported that her kitten been attacked by the same fox. The kitten had to be euthanized because of its injuries.
Later in the day, the woman told deputies that the fox showed up again and attacked her dog. She tried to defend her dog, but she was chased inside her home. Once inside, she grabbed her shotgun, went back outside and fired at the animal, but missed. She told the deputy that she was exposed to the fox's blood during the attack.
While the deputy was at the woman's home, two other neighbors arrived and said that the fox had attacked their cousin as well.
A Chapin police officer also reported being exposed to the blood of the fox.
A short time later one of the neighbors was able to kill the fox. The responding deputy took the fox to the coroner's office who held onto it until the Department of Health and Environmental Control could collect it for testing.
Tests on Tuesday confirmed the animal was rabid.
"Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "About 275 South Carolinians are advised to undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."
Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease.
"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," she said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
While this is the fourth confirmed rabid animal of the year in Lexington County, three rabid animals were confirmed there last year. There were 107 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2011 in South Carolina. There have been 59 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year.