The fox that bit two people in Tyrone Monday was determined late Tuesday to be rabid. Fayette County Animal Control stressed that area residents should be sure that their pets are current on rabies vaccinations.
An employee of a Palmetto Road business and a customer of another were both bitten Monday afternoon by a fox that was subsequently killed by Tyrone police officers responding to the scene. Those bitten were treated at Piedmont Fayette Hospital.
Police Chief Brandon Perkins said the mid-afternoon incident occurred when an employee of Tyrone Power Equipment encountered the fox while walking between two buildings. The fox jumped up and bit him in the arm, Perkins said.
Police were called as the fox ran into a building and under some pallets, said Perkins. The fox was surrounded by men holding fire extinguishers, setting off the spray to keep the fox at bay, he said. But the fox escaped temporarily and attacked another man, biting him on the lower back, said Perkins. The man was a customer at Walter’s Auto.
Perkins said an officer approached the man, ready to strike the fox with the butt of his shotgun, when the fox let go and ran off into another part of the building.
The initial bite victim was bitten a second time as he assisted officers and others attempting to help subdue the fox, said Tyrone Police Investigator Steve Lafferty.
The fox a few minutes later lunged toward Officer Todd Ruth who shot the animal in the neck area with a .40 caliber pistol.
The employee at Tyrone Power Equipment and the Walter’s Auto customer were taken to Piedmont Fayette Hospital for treatment.
Fayette County Animal Control took possession of the fox carcass and received confirmation late Tuesday that it was rabid, said Director Fred Sisson.
Sisson said there is no need for area residents to panic or to keep their pets inside. The most substantial precaution to take is to make sure that rabies vaccinations are current, Sisson said.
The incident was a rare one, considering the number of wild animals in the county, Sisson noted.
Sisson said the animals most likely to contract rabies are bats and raccoons, though potentially any animal can become infected, he said, adding that there is some discussion on whether opossums can contract rabies. The rabies virus is transmitted when saliva is passed into the bloodstream, Sisson said.
Sisson said that anyone noticing unusual behavior from any animal should move away from it, go inside and call police.
Sisson reiterated that the best defense against rabies is keeping pets vaccinated.