BATH — A rabid grey fox that attacked a 52-year-old Bath man in his backyard Sunday morning was later killed by police.

The man was scratched and bitten on his legs, and drove himself to the hospital, according to Bath Deputy Police Chief Andrew Booth. The fox was taken to the Health and Environmental Testing Lab in Augusta, where it tested positive for rabies Monday, Booth said.

It is the 13th wild animal in Bath to test positive for rabies this year.

“This thing slammed into me like a Mac truck,” the victim, who asked that he not be named, said Monday.

The fox ran at the 195-pound man and knocked him backward. He said he managed to kick the fox away, but, “like the zombie movies, it just came back to life and just charged at me again. I was pinned against the house,” he said.

He was eventually able to get inside.

Police searched the property for 20 minutes and were about to leave when “the thing jumps out and starts attacking their car,” according to the victim. Police then killed the fox.

The victim was treated at Mid Coast Hospital, where he received anti rabies injections, he said. He will return for follow-up injections. Without treatment and vaccination, the rabies virus is fatal.

The home where the attack occurred is located between the South End Dog Park and the Maine Maritime Museum on Washington Street, less than a mile from the city’s last fox attack.

Fourth attack this year

Sunday’s fox attack is the fourth in Bath this year.

In early August, a fox attacked a 6-year-old girl on Bumpy Hill Road. Julia Davis of Bath was playing outside at a friend’s house when the fox attacked and chased her into the home. Davis was bitten on the leg before the homeowner chased the fox outside, where it was killed by the homeowner’s dog. The fox tested positive for rabies.

Retired Bath Fire Chief Norman Kenney, 87, was attacked by a fox in early September behind his house on Getchell Street – a couple of blocks north of the Maine Maritime Museum. Because Kenney was able to kill the fox before it punctured his skin, it was not tested for rabies. Police said they suspect the animal was rabid because a healthy fox will not attack humans.

A man was attacked later in September by a fox on Middle Street. He went to a hospital to get rabies vaccine.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system of mammals. It is transmitted primarily through bites and exposure to saliva or spinal fluid from an infected animal. The disease attacks the nervous system, making the infected animal unusually aggressive.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 wild animals in Bath have tested positive for rabies this year, compared to two last year. Five were foxes. Statewide, 87 animals have tested positive for rabies this year, and 22 were foxes.

Brunswick had a similar experience with rabies last summer when seven people were attacked by rabid animals. Nine animals tested positive for rabies there in 2018. Two animals tested positive for rabies in 2017 and so far, only two animals have tested positive this year.

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick has treated more patients than usual who reported coming into contact with a rabid animal. For the past decade, the hospital’s emergency department has treated from 10 to 30 patients annually for rabies exposure. In 2018, the department treated more than 50 people for rabies exposure. This year so far, the department has seen 40 to 50 people in the emergency room with rabies concerns and 37 of them received the vaccine, according to Dr. Ranjiv Advani, the medical director of the Mid Coast Hospital Emergency Department.

Police: Little we can do

Booth said the police can do little more than raise public awareness about rabies and remind residents how to protect themselves and their pets. He said management of wildlife is the responsibility of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Booth reminded residents to pay attention to their surroundings, call the police if they see an animal acting suspicious and to keep their pets vaccinated against rabies.

Efforts to reach Inland Fisheries and Wildlife were unsuccessful Monday.

This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned to spread more than 300,000 rabies vaccine baits in northern Maine to stem the occurrences of rabies there. The USDA says it is cost-prohibitive and not logistically feasible to drop the oral vaccination baits statewide. There were no plans to bait areas in the Midcoast, and wildlife officials said they must stem the spread of rabies in northern Maine before tackling points south.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not immediately respond to questions Monday afternoon.

Earlier this year, Scott Lindsay, a state wildlife biologist with the department, said it is possible to see rabies outbreaks in urban or suburban areas where people live in closer quarters with wildlife, but such occurrences wane in the fall and winter as animals decrease their level of activity.

Lindsay said he expects rabies will be around for the foreseeable future, similar to Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness.

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