A fox believed to have bitten a Lexington County firefighter has tested positive for rabies — the first confirmed case of a rabid fox this year in South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said Friday.
DHEC and state wildlife officials thought the animal was rabid because foxes typically shy away from people. But in this case, the small canine emerged from the woods and attacked a man Thursday morning near Lexington.
Tests Friday confirmed the presence of rabies in the fox, DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick said. The bite prompted Robert Adkins to seek medical treatment for rabies, a fatal disease if not caught early.
Adkins said Thursday he was not overly concerned about the bite because he had gotten treatment. Myrick said the victim is expected to fully recover because treatment was sought quickly after the attack. Rabies vaccines prevent the virus from reaching the brain, Myrick said.
The gray fox was captured about 5 p.m. Thursday near Lexington County’s Ball Park Road animal shelter, Myrick said. The state has had 20 confirmed rabid animals this year, 15 of which were raccoons, according to DHEC. The fox caught in Lexington is the first confirmed for rabies, Myrick said.
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, according to the World Health Organization.
Thursday’s incident follows fox attacks on two people in Richland County near the Dorn VA Hospital about two weeks ago. The fox or foxes in those attacks have not been captured and may be dead. The attacks in both Lexington and Richland counties are not necessarily indicative of a major rabies outbreak. Foxes are among the types of wildlife susceptible to rabies. About 20 percent of the confirmed rabid animals in the state last year were foxes, Myrick said.