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Gold Hill woman fights off rabid fox

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
GOLD HILL ó A woman attacked by a rabid fox last Friday was able to fight it off enough to keep from being seriously injured.
Barbara Mitzen, 50, of 1054 Gaines Drive said she was walking her beagle, Charlie, at about 12:45 p.m. when she spotted the fox in her yard. She had stopped to admire it, she said, when the fox started whining and crying and making little yelping noises.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s sick,’ ” she said. “About that time, my dog made a little noise, and it looked up at us and started toward us.”
Mitzen said she realized then that the fox was rabid and started stomping and hollering, “Get away! Get! Go!”
“The more I stomped and hollered, the faster it ran toward me,” she said.
Trying to protect Charlie, Mitzen said, she grabbed his leash and slung him out of the fox’s path just as it lunged at her. Amazingly, she was able to grab it by the scruff of its neck, holding it away from her,
The fox ripped Mitzen’s T-shirt and pants trying to get at her. “It tried to bite my arm,” she said. It tried to bite my leg. Finally, it did get my right leg in the upper thigh.”
Mitzen said she was afraid to let go of the fox’s neck because she knew it would bite her again. “Its hair started to come out in my hand,” she said, “and I thought, ‘I’m going to lose my grip,’ but I just kept kicking and kicking.”
“Finally, I did get it kicked out and away from me a little,” she said, “but it kept trying to come at me. All I could think of is, ‘I’ve got to get a couple of good kicks in.’ ”
Her last kick knocked the fox a few feet backward, Mitzen said, and it ran up under a stack of lumber.
At this point, she said, her neighbor’s dog came running up barking and she took it and Charlie and ran to her neighbor’s house. “I opened the door and got us all inside,” she said.
Mitzen called Rowan County Animal Control, but said she didn’t get an answer and called 911. Animal Control Officer Tommy Staton and two Rowan County sheriff’s deputies responded to the call and shot the fox.
Its body was sent for rabies testing that day, and Rowan County Animal Control was notified of the positive results on Monday.
Mitzen said she drove herself to the emergency department at Rowan Regional Medical Center. The fox’s two canine teeth had barely broken the skin, she said, and its other teeth left bruises.
Because the fox was believed to be rabid, Mitzen received seven shots ó five in her buttocks, one near the bite site and one in the arm ó in the first of a series of treatments she will receive through May 28.
Though the treatments have improved dramatically from the 21 shots in the stomach with a horse’s syringe that people used to get, she said they’re still difficult.
Mitzen ended up going back to the medical center on Sunday when she started choking and coughing and having difficulty breathing. “It felt like my throat was swollen shut,” she said.
Before the attack, Mitzen said, she was starting to get a cold, “so I don’t know how much of that was from already being sick and how much was side effects from the shots.”
The shots have also given her migraine headaches, she said.
Mitzen had her second set of shots on Tuesday and will get more on Friday. “I’m having muscle weakness today,” she said Wednesday, “and I’m getting these twitches. I don’t know how to explain them.”
In addition to the shots, she was prescribed antibiotics and prednisone.
Even though she was bitten by the rabid fox, Mitzen said she should be fine after the treatments and is not contagious. She returned to work this week, though she said she doesn’t feel well and goes to bed as soon as she gets home.
Though Charlie the beagle stayed behind her when the fox attacked, Mitzen said he was also considered to have been exposed. Because his rabies vaccination was current, she said, he just had to be treated with a booster shot.
Her cat, Cane, was also given a rabies booster shot.
Though she’s been through quite an ordeal, Mitzen said she’s glad the fox attacked her and not one of the small children and elderly people in the neighborhood.
“It would have mauled them,” she said. “There’s no way they could have protected themselves. I’m surprised that even with the adrenaline pumping through me that I did as well as I did.
“I was amazed. The Animal Control people were amazed. Everybody keeps telling me how lucky I am, and I know I am.”
The fox was the third case of rabies to be reported in Rowan County this year.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.

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