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Montague warns of rabies in area

MILLERS FALLS — The Montague Board of Health is advising residents of the village and surrounding area that there has been a confirmed case of rabies in a fox in that part of town.

Animals travel widely and the message is a reminder to everyone that rabies is in Franklin County, wrote Montague Director of Public Health Gina McNeely.

The circumstances of how the fox’s rabid state came to the attention of authorities were not elaborated upon.

The health department advises people to avoid contact with wild animals, whether alive or dead, and call the police department to dispatch animal control if they see an animal behaving strangely. The Montague Police Department’s non-emergency line is 413-863-8911.

Rabid animals may be unusually brazen and aggressive, or listless and unresponsive. The behavior of rabid animals is unpredictable and it is not uncommon for affected animals to attack people, other animals or even inanimate objects.

The rabies vaccine administered to humans is a post-exposure prophylactic, preventing the virus from taking hold. A rabid animal can spread the virus through a bite, scratch or the introduction of the infected animals’ saliva into a fresh open wound or mucous membranes such as those in the eyes, nose and mouth.

People who believe they have been exposed should seek immediate medical attention, and if they cannot get to the hospital immediately scrubbing out a bite or scratch wound with soap and water is a useful first step, according to McNeely.

Precautions to avoid any possible exposure to rabies include vaccinating your pets and not allowing them to roam free.

The cases that usually represent the highest numbers of human exposures involve rabid domestic animals, most commonly cats, according to a release from the Health Department, and none of the cats that have tested positive for rabies in Massachusetts had a current vaccination.

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