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Rose Canyon Lake temporarily closed by search for potentially rabid fox

Posted May 17, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. – Rose Canyon Lake campground on Mount Lemmon is temporarily closed pending a search by state and federal wildlife officials for a potentially rabid fox that bit a 12-year-old Tucson boy’s knee 5 p.m. Sunday.

The boy was treated for his wound and rabies at Tucson Medical Center and released.  The fox ran off after biting the boy, who was playing with his dog at the time of the attack. The fox is assumed to still be in the area since they have relatively small territories.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) recommended the campground closure to the Coronado National Forest on Monday, when they helped clear campers from the area and searched for the fox unsuccessfully using wildlife calls. The temporary closure is expected to be short-term while wildlife officials further assess the situation.  Rose Canyon Lake is stocked by AZGFD with fish and is popular with anglers.

Clearly ill, dying or dead foxes have been recovered for rabies testing three times since March, from the Sweetwater Drive, Picture Rocks and Sabino Canyon areas.

“Avoid contact with and don’t approach wildlife that is behaving abnormally or appears to be ill. If you believe that you see a rabid animal, call us at 1-623-236-7201 or the Pima County Health Department at 520-724-7797 immediately,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. “In addition, avoid touching any dead wildlife that you may find, and keep your pets away from them as well.”

Vega added that pets such as dogs and cats, as well as livestock like horses, should be regularly vaccinated for rabies.  In addition, dogs should be on leashes when outdoors, and a veterinarian consulted if any domestic animals are injured by wildlife, he said. Unvaccinated animals exposed to wildlife with rabies must undergo a four month quarantine.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain). It is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

Rabies can be prevented in persons who have come into contact or have been bitten by wild animals through prompt administration of anti-rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin.

In Arizona, the principal rabies hosts in Arizona are bats, skunks, and foxes. These animals carry their own distinct rabies virus variants or “strains.”

When rabies activity within these animal groups increases, rabies can “spill over” into other mammal species, such as bobcats, coyotes, javelina, cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc. Rabid animals may appear disoriented or intoxicated, salivate heavily or appear thirsty.

Approximately 15 people are exposed to rabid animals in Arizona annually. People who are exposed must receive vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection.  Prevention information is available at: www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/rabies/#prevention.

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