“Capitol Fox” and Rabies

This Red Fox is smart enough to stay away from D.C.

In case you haven’t seen these recent news tidbits, allow me to catch you up on the latest insanity in D.C. Yes it involves Capitol Hill. But surprisingly, it only involves politicians tangentially. Also surprisingly the politicians weren’t the rabid ones.

The short version is that Capitol Hill was home to a wild red fox who has bitten between six and nine people (reports vary) in recent days, including a Congressman. That level of aggression is unusual in creatures that tend to be nocturnal-ish and reclusive.

This alarmed public health officials and thus the animal culprit was captured and subsequently tested positive for rabies. Apparently “animal lovers” are upset that the fox (and its kits) were euthanized and Twitter was doing its usual, because @capitolfox is a real thing. 

To me this just reinforces that a huge portion of the general public are drooling idiots when it comes to wildlife. Rabies is deadly. And it’s reportedly a horrible, agonizing, painful death. Those people who were bitten will be getting multiple shots over the coming days to prevent them from, you know, dying a horrible death and stuff. 

Thanks to Louis Pasteur there is a vaccine for rabies, which has been refined over the years. BUT, once the symptoms of rabies start, there is no going back. YOU. WILL. DIE.

Thus, that fox was going to die anyway and so were its kits, because they were exposed to the rabid parent’s saliva. But that didn’t stop drooling, anthropomorphizing yahoos from howling and mourning over the capture and euthanization of the wild animal. Did they expect public health officials to just let it run around and continue to infect more people and more wildlife? Well, sorry. Also sorry, but you can’t just jam a swab up the fox’s nose to see if it has rabies. You have to test brain tissue in a public health laboratory.

We vaccinate cats and dogs against rabies because of their proximity to humans. But wildlife is wildlife. Some states have vaccine baiting programs, but I doubt that DC does (though they might, NOW)

Rabies is apparently more common in bats these days in the U.S. , but that fox got it from somewhere. Being bitten by a potentially rabid animal is very serious business. Just finding a bat in a room where you were sleeping can buy you a trip to rabies vaccine-ville. Because with bats you may not even know you’ve been bitten, medical people vaccinate you anyway – because the alternative may be slow, painful death.

The people who were bitten by Capitol Fox definitely knew they were bitten and did the right thing in reporting it. And public health and animal control officials ALSO did the right thing, Twitter idiots notwithstanding. Rabies survives in a pool of animals, so this fox isn’t a one-off. There are more. The question is where?

For more information about rabies you can consult the CDC webpage and the advice from your state health department website.

Dr LateBloomer is a female general pediatrician who bought her first firearm at the age of 46. She now enjoys many different shooting disciplines including self-defense, IDPA, USPSA, Steel/Rimfire Challenge, 3-Gun, Sporting clays, and is getting started in hunting. She is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and works to enlighten her medical colleagues whenever possible.