PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The aggressive fox put down over the weekend tested positive for rabies.
The attacks happened in the vicinity of upper Williams Street, Pine Grove Drive and Harryel Street on May 4 and 5.
"This positive diagnosis does not mean that there is going to be an outbreak of rabies within the city," said Merridith O'Leary, the public health director. She does advise, however, to make sure pets are properly vaccinated.
The Pittsfield Health Department also suggests for people to not keep wild animals as pets, to avoid feeding your pets outside, and to securely cover your garbage.
There is no evidence that rabies is increasing in Pittsfield, in Western Massachusetts, or anywhere else, according to O'Leary. The state Department of Public Health issues quarterly reports on numbers of rabid animals and in the first quarter (Jan. 1 – March 30) of 2012, out of the 14 specimens that were sent to the lab for testing from Berkshire County, all specimens tested negative for the rabies virus.
"In Massachusetts, raccoons are the animal most likely to carry rabies. Rabid raccoons are most likely to infect another raccoon; however, because the virus causes animals to behave abnormally, they may sometimes attack another species and spread the virus," she said. "This is termed a 'spill over' event and it is extremely rare to see a 'spill over' event result in more rabies cases."
Rabies is a very serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of fur bearing mammals, including humans. Though rabies is usually a disease of wild animals, it can spread from an infected animal to a person. Transmission of the rabies virus occurs only when the saliva from a rabid animal is infectious and if a person or animal is exposed to that saliva from a bite, in a scratch, or in their eyes, nose or mouth.
Anyone who may have had direct contact with saliva from a fox or any other wild animal, should first wash out the wound with soap and water for ten minutes, then immediately contact their health-care provider, the Health Department, or state Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800.
Anyone who may have witnessed aggressive behavior by a fox in this area, or who may have been exposed to this animal, should contact the animal control officers at 413-448-9700, Ext 335.