State health officials suspect more than one fox is responsible for the attacks late last week on two people in southeast Columbia.
Adam Myrick, a spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said the fox attacks occurred about 1½ miles apart and it is not likely a single fox would have traveled that far. DHEC suspects the foxes were rabid because the small animals typically are shy and non-aggressive.
“We could very likely be dealing with more than one,” Myrick said Saturday. “People should keep their eyes open, and if they do see an animal, stay away from it. If it does attack you ... and you are bitten, seek immediate medical attention.”
Myrick said DHEC is investigating reports that two dogs were bitten. They have been quarantined as a precaution.
Rabies is a viral disease that develops in domestic and wild carnivores, as well as bats. It is transmitted to other animals or people through bites and scratches from infected animals. When symptoms of the disease develop, rabies often is fatal to people and animals.
He said he did not know if the fox or foxes had been captured. Myrick said it appears the fox that attacked one of the people nipped at the person’s pants leg.
Carroll Senn, one of those attacked, said the animal’s teeth broke through his pants leg and cut his skin. Senn said he has taken seven shots for rabies and has four more treatments ahead of him, but he remained upbeat Saturday.
“As soon as he saw me, he charged,” Senn said. “He grabbed me by the leg, but eventually, I was able to fend him off.”
The attacks occurred in the area near the Dorn VA hospital and Meadowfield Elementary School, off Garner’s Ferry Road.
Rabid animal attacks on humans are more common than people might think. About 400 people undergo rabies treatments in South Carolina each year after coming in contact with rabid animals, Myrick said. Of the 107 confirmed rabies cases last year; 19 were foxes, he said.