Thursday, August 8, 2002

Rabid fox bites child

Published in the Current

A rabid fox bit a 2-1/2 year old girl Tuesday at a day-care center in Cape Elizabeth.

Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, a fox ran from a brushy area 20 feet from Funny Farm Daycare on Old Ocean House Road. Ten children were playing in the driveway, supervised by two adults. The fox ran directly to the group and bit the girl on her arm, breaking the skin. The fox then ran back into the underbrush between the day-care and the yard next door.

Cape Elizabeth Rescue responded and transported the child to a Portland hospital.

According to the day-care owner, she was treated and released from the hospital and is now home with her family. Two day-care teachers, who may have been exposed to fox saliva, also are being treated.

Officers Vaughn Dyer and Mark Dorval were able to locate what they believed was the same fox. When found, the fox charged the officers, who shot it. The body is now in a state lab in Augusta.

The lab confirmed on Wednesday that the fox was rabid, which came as no surprise to Cape police Capt. Brent Sinclair. “That’s just not normal behavior” for a fox, he said.

Scott Rockwell, an owner of the day-care, said he has seen foxes in the past, but has never had any problems with them.

Ironically, he said, “I had just taken the kids on a walk” on the town greenbelt trail behind the day-care property. The kids had gone inside for a drink and then headed outside to play in the driveway, he said.

Rockwell said that parents had been understanding about the event, and though the bite victim was not at the day-care the following day, “everyone (else) brought their kids back here today. ”

Rockwell said the girl was fine and at home with her parents on Wednesday.

He said the day care routinely talks about animal safety with the children in its care, teaching them “the importance of staying together in the woods.” He added that people encountering foxes should be wary.

“If you see one, don’t go near him,” Rockwell said.

Sinclair said the teachers at Funny Farm had done everything right by taking the kids inside, getting medical treatment and notifying parents. “They did exactly what they should have done,” he said.

Dr. Jon Karol, an emergency medical physician and director of Maine Medical Center’s Brighton First Care facility, said the standard treatment for a human bitten by a rabid animal is two shots on the first visit, both given in the upper arm. One shot is rabies immune globulin, given just once in a dose
based on the patient’s weight. The other shot is a rabies vaccine.

The patient also has to return four times over the month following exposure for additional doses of the rabies vaccine, Karol said.