SIERRA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico health officials say an aggressive fox found in Sierra County recently tested positive for rabies. Now, health officials are warning ranchers, farmers and pet owners to vaccinate their animals against the viral disease.

The New Mexico Department of Health says the fox was found in a rural residential area in western Sierra County. The department says the fox bit a Sierra County person this week before authorities determined the animal was infected.

The person bit received prompt medical treatment for the wound and is in good condition,” said David Morgan, a spokesman for NMDOH. “That person is now receiving the required rabies post exposure vaccine series – a series of vaccinations that occur over a period of two weeks.”

Sierra County is south of Bernalillo, Valencia and Socorro counties. It is home to the communities of Truth or Consequences, Kingston, Hillsboro and Elephant Butte among others.

Rabies is passed through the saliva of animals and can be deadly. Animals with the disease can more often exhibit “no fear” toward people, but can also seem quiet or friendly. Public health officials say anyone who comes in contact with the saliva of rabid animals should seek immediate medical treatment.

In New Mexico, NMDOH says most rabies cases happen in the wild among animals like foxes, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, and bats. Last year, health officials found a rabid fox in the Kingston-area of Sierra County, as well as several other rabid animals in southern New Mexico counties.

Anyone who spots a sick or dead animal, or an animal exhibiting strange behavior should report it to New Mexico Game and Fish at 505-827-9376. You can learn more about rabies at this link to the NMDOH’s website.

NMDOH offers these tips to keep safe:

  • Always keep pets on a leash. Pets should be up to date on rabies vaccinations and wearing current license tags on their collar. If your cat or dog has been bitten or scratched, especially by a wild animal, call your pet’s veterinarian even if the wound is superficial.
  • Horses and other livestock should also be considered for rabies vaccination to protect them from rabid animals that may attack them.
  • Stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals. Do not attempt to feed, approach, or touch wild animals (alive or dead). Teach this to your children and always keep a close eye on your kids.
  • If you or someone you know are bitten by an animal, or come into contact with an animal’s saliva, wash the exposed site immediately with soap and water. Be sure to report the bite to local animal control and seek medical care as soon as possible.
  • If you or your pets are bitten or otherwise exposed to the saliva of wild animals, seek medical care immediately and contact the New Mexico Department of Health at (505) 827-0006.