ANCHORAGE (AP) — Public health officials in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta have asked residents to vaccinate their pets after three rabid foxes were found in the last few weeks.
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation said the communities of Nightmute, Alakanuk and Bethel each recently reported a fox that tested positive for rabies, the Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
“We encourage you to have your pets vaccinated as soon as possible so they are protected from exposure to wildlife, especially since we have confirmed cases of rabies in YK communities,” Alyssa Leary, interim environmental health services manager for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., said in a statement.
Any person who has been bitten or scratched by a pet or by wildlife should visit their local clinic or hospital and report the incident, Leary said.
The foxes were killed and sent for rabies testing by the corporation’s Office of Environmental Health after they showed possible signs of having the disease, the health corporation said. All of the test were positive.
Rabies has been present in the fox populations in Alaska for decades, with outbreaks occurring every few years, according to a 2019 epidemiology bulletin on rabies published by the state health department.
If rabies is left untreated, it can be fatal to people and pets.
However, Alaska residents have reported very few cases of rabies. As of the 2019 epidemiology bulletin, there had been only three reported human rabies cases in Alaska.
Alaska state law mandates that all dogs, cats and ferrets over four months old receive rabies vaccinations, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Pet owners are recommended to revaccinate their animals against rabies at one-year old, then every one to three years afterward.
Contracting rabies is almost always caused by a bite or scratch from an infected animal. It typically takes between three and eight weeks for infected animals to show symptoms, which may include excessive drooling, unprovoked aggression, not eating or drinking or changes in the sounds the animals make.