A gray fox that bit a child March 28 at the Chiricahua National Monument has tested positive for rabies.
The victim, a 9-year-old boy, was treated for rabies the same day and released from Tucson Medical Center, Arizona Game and Fish Department Public Information Officer Mark A. Hart said Thursday.
Spokeswoman Libby Schaaf, with the National Park Service, said that the Arizona Department of Health Services Office of Infectious Disease Services confirmed that the fox, euthanized March 29 at Chiricahua, has tested positive for rabies.
“Our immediate concern was for the child and his family,” Schaaf said, adding that a Chiricahua park ranger notified the child's mother of the test results.
“She has been advised to have the child continue with medical treatment,” Schaaf told the Range News. “We don't wish this type of experience for any of our park visitors. Quick action by park rangers and our partner agencies has brought this unfortunate incident to a close.
“We continue to advise our park visitors and park partners of the dangers of getting close to wildlife and to watch for signs that may indicate rabies in wild animals.”
The child and his parents were at a popular scenic pullout along the main park road when the boy was bitten on the left calf. Park rangers worked in cooperation with Game and Fish, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control to find the fox, which was located early in the morning Thursday, March 29. Matt Stoffolano, the monument's acting superintendent, reminded park visitors “to be cautious around all wild animals and never to feed, touch or approach wildlife.”
Signs of rabid animals include aggressive behavior, appearing sick or tame, difficulty moving or paralysis, drooling or biting and being active during abnormal hours.
Sightings of any animal exhibiting such behavior should be reported immediately by contacting park staff at 520-824-3560, ext. 9302, or Cochise County Animal Control at 520-432-8502.
There have been 39 confirmed rabies cases in Arizona since Jan. 1, with 31 in Southeast Arizona — Pima, Pinal, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties. Ten of those were in Cochise County.
In Arizona, about 15 people are exposed to rabid animals every year. People who are exposed must receive vaccine and anti-rabies serum treatment to prevent infection.
Prevention information is available at: http://www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/rabies/#prevention.