A Lewiston homeowner killed a rabid fox that attacked the family cat, leading police to warn that there might be more rabid animals out there.
The incident occurred in the Nob Hill Road area of Lewiston on Thursday and a test of the deceased fox for rabies came back positive on Friday. The cat has been quarantined and will be tested for the disease, according to a statement from the Lewiston Police Department.
The incident follows a fox attack on a Lisbon woman in May, who did not contract the disease. A total of 31 rabid animals have been confirmed in Maine so far in 2020, according to statistics compiled by the Division of Public Health Services page at maine.gov. Fourteen were gray foxes, 10 were raccoons and five were skunks.
“Foxes are commonly nursing kits [babies] during this time of the year. If the rabid fox had been nursing, there is a probability the kits may also be infected with the virus,” the department warned in a statement issued on Friday.
Rabies is defined as a contagious and fatal viral disease of dogs and other mammals that causes madness and convulsions, transmissible through the saliva to humans, for whom it can be fatal. Once in the human brain, the virus multiplies rapidly and causes severe inflammation of the brain and spinal cord after which the person deteriorates rapidly and dies, according to healthline.com.
According to the World Health Organization, as many as 59,000 people worldwide die from rabies every year. All but one percent of the confirmed human deaths come from rabid dog bites, but in the United States, vaccinations have reduced the number of cases to only two or three a year.
Signs of rabies in animals include staggering, stumbling, over-friendliness or unprovoked aggressive behavior. Animals with advanced cases also foam at the mouth.
Anyone who sees a sick or rabid animal should call 911 or their local animal control officer immediately, police said.