Clover girl treated for rabid fox bite

CLOVER -- Ten-year-old Summer Langston was able to get away from a rabid fox last week after it chased her near her home in Clover, but she'll soon have to go through a series of shots to treat a 2-inch bite on her leg.

Summer was playing with other girls in a yard near her home when the fox ran out of the woods. First, it bit the rubber wheel of her doll's stroller, then came at her, she said. Her older sister April cleaned the wound, which had broken the skin.

"It sort of hurt, but not anymore," Summer said about the fox bite, which her mother says looks more like a scratch than teeth marks or a gash.

The fox was later found dead and tested positive for rabies.

"I would have thought it was rare, but this is the second or third fox around here," said Summer's mother, Carolyn Langston, who was in classes at York Technical College when her daughter was bitten.

"It's scary to think that all these kids on summer vacation, playing in other people's yards, might not know where to run if they see one," she said.

The community where the Langstons live is home to small pets, such as cats and dogs. Property owner Charles Hoffecker requires that dogs be confined to yards. He said there's a surprising number of raccoons, squirrels and rabbits that run loose nearby, which might might draw foxes to the area.

"If there was one fox with rabies, something had to have bit him before that," Hoffecker said.

State law requires that all mammal bites be reported to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, but treatment isn't as arduous as it was in the past, said Clair Boatwright, SCDHEC spokesperson.

"You may have heard about 17 shots in the stomach," she said. "It's not that way anymore."

Summer Langston will receive inoculations to prevent the virus from reaching the brain. According to DHEC, when the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease can be fatal to humans and animals.

This is the fifth confirmed rabid animal in York County in 2008.

Another resident in the Kreps Road community, Michael Sides, said he saw a rabid fox the week before Summer was bitten. It tried to attack his golf cart but limped away to a nearby lake, where Sides and Hoffecker killed it, he said.

Sides' 17- and 11-year-old sons play on the dirt road in the community. His oldest son skateboards on the paved road and many of the kids play on swingsets, he said.

Sides said he's not going to keep them inside all summer, but he's not arming them with sticks, either.

"There's nothing you can really do," he said. "You can't just go out and shoot every fox you see, but you can't keep your kids cooped up inside. It's summer."

Sixteen rabid animals were found in York County last year, including foxes, raccoons, a cow, a bat and a skunk, according to DHEC.