Two more rabid foxes have been confirmed in the Young area, bringing the number of infected animals to three discovered in the last week.
Those discoveries led to a quarantine of the community southeast of Payson Monday, which means no dogs or cats in the Young area will be allowed to roam free.
"Any dog or cat that isn't on a leash or confined could be impounded, or the owner could face citation," said Gila County Rabies Control Officer Ty Goodman. "If they're cited, the fines will be steep."
The area under quarantine extends from Canyon Creek campground to Colcord Road and south through the Haigler Creek, Young and the lower Cherry Creek areas to past Aztec Peak.
The rabies scare first came to light March 22 when a boy traveling back to Young on a school field trip was bit by a small gray fox in a freak encounter. The 12-year-old boy tried shaking the fox off his leg, and in the end, had to stomp on it with his other foot to free himself. The animal was then run over by a pickup, retrieved by another vehicle and tested.
By the next afternoon, officers received word that the animal was rabid. The boy started getting a series of rabies shots that day.
Goodman said he and his superiors took their cue from this attack, deciding it was time to do a refresher course with the Young students about the dangers of approaching wildlife.
"My supervisor, Don Skelly, and I went to Young last Thursday to talk to the students," said Goodman, who is based in Payson. "While talking to them, we hear from a couple of students about another fox that was dead near Mexican Wash. We also learned of a third on the property of Don Anderson."
The rabies control officers located the animals, removed their heads and burned the remains. The heads were then sent to the state laboratory in Phoenix for testing. By Friday evening, it was confirmed that the two recent foxes were also rabid.
Goodman said his department determined that there was no exposure to area residents.
The response of the county's rabies control department was immediate, said assistant supervisor Joey Cruz.
"We held an emergency vaccination clinic Saturday (in Young), and vaccinated 155 pets," Cruz said.
Goodman said additional clinics are scheduled for Young, Christopher Creek and the Tonto Basin area, in conjunction with Dr. Alan Hallman and the Star Valley Veterinary Clinic. Vaccination clinics also will be scheduled for horses and cattle sometime this week.
Goodman said he hopes his department is getting its message across.
"This is very serious," he said. "If untreated, exposure to rabies can be a life-threatening situation."
Goodman, fellow animal control officer Brad Scott and Dr. Hallman will be guests of Rim Country Forum on KMOG Radio Thursday from 9:05 a.m. to 10 a.m. to answer questions about the quarantine and about rabies in general.
For more information, contact the rabies control department at 474-1210 or (520) 425-5882.
Facts on rabies
• Rabies is a deadly viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of its victim.
- Wild animals carry the most risk of being rabid. Strictly speaking, any fur-bearing mammal can carry rabies, however certain wild animals are the most common carriers. Skunks (polecats), raccoons, foxes, and bats are the most common carriers. Beavers, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, rats and mice are less notorious, but are fully capable of being rabid. Dogs, cats and cattle are the domestic animals that are at highest risk. In rare instances, bats have been known to pass the virus without direct contact.
- Because many wild animals migrate, the problem exists nearly everywhere in the United States. Because our wilderness is being constantly encroached upon, and some species of wild animals are adapting to our neighborhoods, the potential for spread of rabies from wildlife into domestic life is very high.
- Rabies is most often passed from animal to animal, or animal to human, through bites. The rabies virus in the attacker's saliva is passed through the puncture wound into the victim's skin. The virus can also be transmitted by licking when a sore or wound is exposed to saliva from an infected person or animal.
- If you feel that you have been exposed to a rabid animal, you must seek the advice of a doctor or health department immediately.
- If you, your child or pet is wounded by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water immediately. Seek the help of a health care professional immediately if there is reason to suspect that the animal has rabies. However, there is no way to know without having the live animal or its carcass laboratory tested. Do not attempt to guess. Assume it does if you have any reason to suspect that the animal is rabid.
Source: www.rabies.com, a Web site resource on rabies presented by Stemrich & Associates.