Rabid Fox Approaches Water Country Visitors

July 31st, 2009 by WY Daily Staff
Rabid Fox Approaches Water Country Visitors

Water Country USA guests in line to ride Rampage were surprised by a friendly fox turned out to be rabid. No one was bitten or otherwise injured, as the animal was able to be subdued.

Virginia Department of Health officials reported Friday that a rabid fox wandered into a line of visitors at York County’s Water Country Wednesday morning, and was subdued by an employee.

According to VDH spokesman Dave Jordan, an aggressive fox approached a tourist in line for the busy “Rampage” water toboggan ride at Water Country USA Wednesday morning, then rubbed against the visitor’s leg. There was no contact otherwise – no bites or scratches.

Were you there?
Anyone who may have been in the vicinity of Water Country on Wednesday or believes they encountered the animal should call the Peninsula District Health Department at (757) 253-4813 during normal business hours, or York County Animal Control at (757) 890-3601 after hours.

The surprised visitor kicked the fox away, and someone else in line quickly threw a towel over it. An employee used a litter grabber to subdue the fox, and managed to get it into a plastic trashcan with a lid.

Animal control came to pick up the animal and an animal control officer collected information on the incident from witnesses before taking the animal to the VDH for testing.

“If you’re gonna have a rabid animal in a theme park, this was about the best outcome, I think,” said Jordan. He says this is the first time he’s heard of a rabid animal in a theme park; generally they come in contact with the public in residential communities.

Water Country management was contacted to disseminate the information to park visitors, and a VDH official made contact with the tourists to make sure they were okay.

Water Country USA spokesman Kevin Crossett said because the park is nestled in the woods, critters do tend to find their way into the park from time to time. He said park officials spoke to the guests who were present when the fox appeared and have been available for anyone who has concerns over the incident.

Late Thursday afternoon, test results confirmed the fox had rabies.

“The only way to transmit rabies is through a bite, scratch, or exposure of saliva [with the virus] to mucus membranes like the eyes and mouth,” Jordan said. Treatment is very effective, Jordan pointed out, if administered before the virus is transmitted. The visitor who was in contact with the fox has contacted a physician and will probably undergo treatment just in case, according to Jordan.

About 15 to 25 positive rabies cases a year are identified in the Peninsula office, Jordan said, but the number isn’t representative of how many animals are infected in the area because the office only tracks animals involved in human-contact incidents.

There are only one or two reported human cases of rabies each year in the country, Jordan said, because people are vigilant, the health department and other agencies are quick to report incidents, and people typically get their pets vaccinated.

Raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats are the most likely to be infected with the virus, which came to the greater Williamsburg area in 1986, most likely from raccoons in the Northern Virginia area, according to Jordan.

Signs of an infected animal are abnormal aggressiveness or passivity and other abnormal behavior.

“Enjoy wildlife from a distance,” Jordan cautioned, and never approach a wild animal.

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