A fox that attacked a four-year-old girl in Lakewood on Saturday night has tested positive for rabies.

Red Fox (NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife)

Daniel E. Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator says that tests conducted by the New Jersey Public Health Environmental and Agricultural Laboratory came back Tuesday morning and says the fox's aggressive behavior was a tip off.

“Foxes are normally afraid and shy of people and its behavior, attacking someone without provocation, certainly gave us concern that it was rabid. Rabies prophylaxis was begun immediately which will continue for 14 days.”

14 animals have tested positive for rabies in Ocean County according to the health department: 2 bats, 1 cat, 6 raccoons, 3 skunks and 2 foxes

Taking No Chances

The parents of the Lakewood girl  took no chances and had already begun the rabies injection series.

NJ State Public Health Veterinarian Doctor Colin Campbell seemed to be on board with their decision. "For a bite wound or other what we would consider a high-risk exposure, we recommend that the preventative treatment be given within a few days but in some cases are treated a week later or ten days later," he said.

Campbell said the treatment consist of a series of four inoculations over a 14 day time period, but can be stopped at anytime should the animal test negative for rabies. Even though the child sustained scratches to her arm, leg and lip and not a bite, Campbell still recommended preventative treatment. "Saliva that gets through the skin, either through a scratch, or an open wound or even in contact with the eyes can also cause an infection. So, in those situations the person should also receive the preventative treatment."

Lakewood Police said the attack could have been worst but a man kicked the fox away from the toddler. They also said the responding officer was forced to shoot the fox when it tried to attack both he and an animal control officer.

Campbell said they see the largest number of rabid animals in the summer and early fall. He said the best way to prevent attacks is to keep the wild form taking up residents around or on your properties or attracting them to your property by leaving out pet food and garbage. "Taking some common sense simple measures to keep those animals away from the living space, away from the back yard will help prevent contact but it can't be entirely prevented. An animal with rabies can wonder quite a ways."

Ocean County Health Department Spokeswoman Leslie Terjesen said they want to make sure that people get their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. She also advised residents to animal-proof your homes by storing garbage in animal resistant containers, screening off vents and attics and areas that provide shelter for bats.

"If somebody gets bitten by an animal, you want to learn as much about the animal as you can. If it's with its owner, get the owner's name and address. If it's a stray, certainly try to remember the location where you last saw the animal and any identifying feature on the animal for the animal control officer. Wash your wound immediately with soap and water, contact your physician, your healthcare provider or your emergency room and of course we need to be informed at the Health Department," said Terjesen.