The city of Utqiagvik is under a rabies quarantine for the next three weeks after an infected fox bit a local dog, North Slope Borough veterinarian Lyndall Soule said.
Rabies quarantines are not particularly uncommon on Alaska’s North Slope, Soule said. Foxes are the most common carrier of the disease, and there’s a decent sized population in Utqiagvik and the rural villages surrounding it, she said.
Quarantines go into effect whenever a person or pet is bit by an animal infected with rabies. In this case, Soule said a dog tussled with a fox, nearly killing it before his owners stepped in to end the fight. The fox later tested positive for rabies. Soule said the dog was vaccinated, but was immediately revaccinated and will be on an individual 45-day quarantine.
Rabies is a fatal disease with a small window of time for treatment immediately following infection. Soule said testing for the disease can only be done after an animal is dead because tissue is tested from the brain.
Soule said the quarantine is a good reminder for people to make sure their pets have updated rabies vaccinations. During the citywide quarantine, residents are asked to keep dogs inside or secured by a leash or chain when outside, according to a statement from the borough’s department of health and social services. Loose dogs could be killed during a quarantine, but Soule reassured that it is more of a last resort — “we don’t just go out and shoot all the dogs that are running loose."
The public is asked to report fox sightings during the quarantine to police at 907-852-6111 or to the vet clinic at 907-852-0277. The quarantine lasts until Jan. 13.
Utqiagvik, which has a population of about 4,500 people, was under a quarantine earlier this fall and Soule said surrounding villages in the North Slope have also been quarantined this year.