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Rabies has been confirmed in the coyote shot June 5 in a community off Carrleigh Parkway in the Springfield area.

Prior to the coyote being located, area residents had seen it biting tires which is a sign of rabies, according to Fairfax County Police Lt. Dan Spital. The coyote was shot by a Fairfax County Animal Patrol officer after the animal snuck up from behind and bit him on June 5. The officer had been searching for the coyote at the time of the attack. The animal was then transported to the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) laboratory for examination. The lab confirmed rabies June 6.

FCPD responded to the area June 4 after three adults and two dogs were bitten, and Lake Accotink Park was subsequently closed until after the coyote was located and shot. 

“It was out of an abundance of caution that FCPA shut down Lake Accotink Park June 4,” said John Burke, Natural Resources Branch manager, Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA). He said they are still coordinating closely with the Animal Protection Police, FCHD, and the county’s wildlife management specialist on decisions and responses to incidents involving human-wildlife conflict. 

“Following the response from animal protection police, FCPA ecologists will monitor the surrounding parkland using remote game cameras for signs of other infected animals,” said Blake. He noted that this was the first time a park was closed for this type of incident. “Park staff have issued alerts and posted signs to notify park visitors when potentially sick wildlife have been observed or animal bites have been reported,” he said.

Sixteen animals have been diagnosed with rabies in Fairfax County which is trending normal so far this year, according to Dr. Katherine Edwards, FCPD Wildlife Management specialist. “The county usually has 40 to 60 confirmed cases of rabid animals per year,” she said, adding that raccoons are the most common wild animal diagnosed with rabies in Fairfax County. 

Edwards said that signs an animal may be rabid include disorientation, a stumbling or staggering gait, erratic wandering or circling, excessive drooling and unprovoked aggression. “Animals that appear tame, self-mutilation, biting or snapping at imaginary objects, difficulty swallowing, paralysis and or seizures,” are also indications she said, noting that an unprovoked attack by a coyote is extremely rare. “They generally avoid human contact.

“The incidence of rabies in coyotes is very low,” she said. “Coyotes are well-established throughout Fairfax County.” They have also been documented in many neighborhoods and most parks.

People who are bitten by a rabid animal would need a regimen of four doses of the HDCV or PCEC vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. If you are bitten, “begin with immediate through cleansing of all wounds with soap and water,” website instructions direct. They recommend using a virucidal agent such as povidine-iodine solution to irrigate the wound. For more information visit https://bit.ly/3toazSb.

The FCHD recommends if you or someone you know or a pet touched or was bitten or scratched by the animal between June 4 and 5, you are urged to call the FCHD Rabies Program at 703-246-2433.

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