The St. Mary’s County Health Department on Wednesday reported that a fox captured near Hilton Drive in the Lexington Park area tested positive for rabies.

The test results were confirmed by the state’s laboratory at the Maryland Department of Health in Baltimore. The fox may have exposed a feral cat population in the area to the viral disease.

Rabies is a potentially fatal virus that is transmitted through the saliva of an infectious animal. Residents should not approach or feed wild or unknown animals.

Residents should report any animal exposures involving people to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office at 301-475-8008. Suspected animal bites to pets or livestock should be reported to St. Mary’s County Animal Control at 301-475-8018.

According to the health department, the following precautions can protect pets and family members from the threat of rabies:

Be sure pets have up-to-date rabies shots. Maryland law requires that all cats, dogs and ferrets four-months and older have current rabies shots. Low-cost rabies clinics are provided by the health department and St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) from March through November;

Keep pets in homes or yards and walk them on a leash;

Never approach, touch or feed unknown animals; and

Do not feed pets outdoors. Pet food and other food sources such as unsecured garbage cans may attract unwanted and unhealthy animals into yards.

Wild animals accounted for approximately 93% of reported cases of rabies in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bats were the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species (33% of all animal cases), followed by raccoons (30%), skunks (20%) and foxes (7%).

The St. Mary’s health department investigates reports of animal bites and, based on the outcome of the investigation, refers the affected person to the hospital’s emergency department or to their primary health care provider for treatment and vaccination.

For more information about rabies and the rabies vaccination clinics, visit smchd.org/rabies-prevention.

Twitter: @JesseSoMdNews

Twitter: @JesseSoMdNews