Retired nurse feared being 'eaten alive' after bite by rabid fox

Retired nurse mom-of-three reveals she thought she would be ‘eaten alive’ as she was bitten by a rabid fox in a frenzied attack in her own front yard leaving her with 16 puncture wounds on her hands and legs

  • Sherri Russo, 61, was too scared to leave home for a week after rabid fox attack
  • The retired nurse and mother-of-three said she feared being ‘eaten alive’ by fox
  • Only when a brave neighbor sprinted to her rescue did she escape its clutches
  • The dogged gray-haired beast was euthanized before testing positive for rabies 

A retired nurse thought she was going to be ‘eaten alive’ when she was attacked by a rabid fox in her own front yard in broad daylight – leaving her too frightened to leave her house for a week.

Shocking footage shows the moment Sherri Russo, 61, was pounced on and repeatedly bitten by the crazed mammal and her desperately trying to kick and shake it free.

But the dogged grey fox clung on, sinking its fangs into the unsuspecting victim’s leg and hand during the frenzied 30-second attack last month.

It was only when a hero neighbor armed with a large stick ran towards the beast that it released a screaming Sherri from its grip before slinking away.

Sherri was on an innocuous phone call in her front yard when the fox came up behind her 

The retired nurse, 61, was too scared to leave her home for a week after the attack (pictured)

Sherri and Paul Russo, both 61, shared the footage to warn neighbors about the scary risks

The neighbor managed to get Sherri into his car and to the hospital where the 16 puncture wounds on her left leg and right hand were cleaned and dressed.

The mom-of-one was then given the first of four rabies vaccines, a tetanus jab, immune globulin injections, and prescribed a series of antibiotics to tackle the infection.

While she was being treated in hospital, the fox was killed and tests at a nearby veterinary college confirmed it had tested positive for rabies.

Sherri, who was left so scared by the ordeal that she was unable to leave her house for a week, is now urging people to be aware of their surroundings and animals in their community.

Sherri, from Caroline, New York, said: ‘I was so fearful that he was going to knock me over, he was going to attack my face and I was going to be eaten in my front yard.

‘When I got the first nip on the outside of my leg, I actually thought it was our neighbor’s dog.

‘I lifted my leg and was getting ready to say ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and shoo him away but I looked down and I saw this grey fox.

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I realise there was a rabid fox.

The retired nurse and mom-of-three was swiftly given medical attention for her grim wounds

The rabid gray fox clung on to Sherri’s body (pictured), leaving dozens of punctures to her skin

‘When I poked him away and he came back at me I realised that something bad was going to happen, and then it happened. Then it kept happening.

‘When I reached down to grab him off my leg and yank him away, that’s when he took a hold of between my thumb and my forefinger and he just chomped down on me.

‘I was trying to get him off and the whole time I was screaming louder than I knew I could.

‘Thankfully my neighbour was out on his lawn tractor and heard me, he jumped over his fence and came running over with the stick.

‘The fox must have seen him and just as I was able to get that last kick in, he was distracted and ran off.’ 

Sherri said: ‘Luckily for me he didn’t damage [any] bone, tendon or muscle in my hand.’

The fox tested positive for rabies while hospital staff treated Sherri for her horror injuries

Sherri walked into her front yard at 2.30pm on July 25th while on the phone when the furry fiend launched an unprovoked attack.

Sherri, who is married to gas company operations manager Paul, also 61, said: ‘The first bite I felt a little nip on the outside aspect of my knee area on my left leg.

‘When he reacted to me [defending myself] he went a couple of inches higher on the same side of my leg. He broke through my jeans.

‘That was the first of three real punctures. I’m not sure how I got him off there but there was some fancy footwork going on.

‘Then he got the better of me and he got the inside of my left leg, right behind my knee where it bends.

‘I grabbed him to pull him off there, there were pretty good size stripes where the fangs slid through my skin.

‘He was a little guy but he was just relentless, he just kept coming back and each time he did I started to lose a little more confidence in my ability to ward him off.

Sherri managed to kick the fox one last time before it was frightened away by her neighbor

‘While this was happening I was just thinking ‘this has got to be a rabid fox and I’m really in a lot of trouble’.

‘He was a regular-sized fox but at the time he may as well have been a mammoth, especially when he had latched onto my hand and wouldn’t let go.

‘I was screaming and just calling out for help. It felt like forever, for me it was an entire lifetime, but when I watched the clip it really didn’t last very long.’

Sherri’s hero neighbour leapt into action armed with a stick and startled the fox away.

Sherri said: ‘I was there all alone but for the grace of god my neighbour happened to be out on his lawn tractor.

‘If he had been indoors I truly don’t know how this would have ended.

‘He grabbed a stick, the closest weapon he could, but he never had to use it.

‘Once the fox saw him get close to me he just decided that he was just going to regroup and think of somebody else to go attack because that’s when he took off.

‘I just thank god that my neighbour turned up. I can’t get over how kind it was for him to not look the other way or pretend he didn’t hear anything. I’ll be forever grateful for that.’

After startling the fox away, the neighbour drove Sherri to Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York, where she received treatment for her wounds.

Sherri said: ‘I ended up in the emergency room with 16 punctures, 12 that were deep enough that they were oozing awful things.

‘They injected each of the punctures with immune globulin, gave me my very first of the series of the rabies vaccine and I was put on antibiotics.

‘The day after my hand got infected and they put me on more antibiotics.

‘I had to keep dressings on my wounds on my leg and hand for a couple of weeks as they kept draining [infection].

‘Luckily for me he didn’t damage [any] bone, tendon or muscle in my hand, that was so lucky.

‘I got a few nasty-looking tears on my leg that aren’t going to be the most beautiful scars but my hand’s healing up pretty nicely.’

While Sherri was being treated for her injuries, the fox went back into Caroline, where he’d been earlier in the day.

As there had been reports of a rabid animal lurking in the area, people were prepared and the animal was killed and its body taken to Cornell University’s vet college for analysis.

There it tested positive for rabies and staff let the hospital know while they treated Sherri.

Sherri said: ‘The fox ended up going into the little town we live in, apparently he had been there before he attacked me.

At one point, Russo even managed to make the fox flip after grabbing it by its tail last month

The fox was relentless, pursuing Sherri several times before her stick-wielding neighbor came

‘He stirred up enough of a ruckus that everyone was aware, no-one was attacked but the folks in town knew there was a rabid fox wandering around.

‘So he went back to that original place and they were ready for him, they killed him.

‘They took the body down to the veterinary college at Cornell University and determined that he had rabies.’

A month on, Sherri said that the attack had affected her both physically and mentally.

Sherri said: ‘A lot of people are saying ‘you’re so cool, you’re such a badass’ and it’s funny because I don’t see it that way at all.

‘I see it as though anyone would have acted the same way, even a child. It’s between you and a wild animal who’s obviously not well.

‘Our daughter stayed with me for the first week, I was pretty shaken up, it really did a number to me mentally.

‘I was afraid to go outside, I was afraid to be near windows and doors because I just had this awful fear that somehow his friend was going to jump through the door or window.

‘Ironically the first day I was ready to try and go outside with my husband he showed me a clip of a grey fox that had been wandering in our yard the night before, so I refused to go outside.

‘It took me close to a week before I was able to go outside again.’

Sherri is now urging people to be aware of what animals live nearby and be mindful of your surroundings.

Sherri said: ‘Perhaps one of the most important things is to be aware of the animals that are in your community.

‘A fox shouldn’t be out in the daytime really and if they are they should be fearful of humans and scampering in the other direction.

‘Be aware of your surroundings – look around you.

‘The first thing I would have tried to do if I’d seen him was try to quietly back away, but if it hits and attacks you it’s basically fight for your life.’

The horror video was first shared on Facebook by the victim’s husband, Paul Russo, on Sunday. 

‘My wife was attacked by a rabid fox this past July,’ he wrote online. ‘Our friend edited the security camera footage and made this educational video for us to post to alert everyone that this can happen to anyone.’

It was eventually killed after attacking another person in the area, according to the New York Post. 

The fox was then taken to a laboratory at Cornell University, where it was confirmed that it had rabies.

Rabies is caused by a virus that invades the central nervous system and is usually fatal in animals and humans. It’s most commonly spread through a bite from an infected animal, with most U.S. infections in recent years traced to bat encounters.

Infection can cause insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paralysis, salivating, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing and fear of water.

Death can occur only a couple of weeks after symptoms begin. But it can be prevented through a series of five shots given within two weeks of exposure.

An estimated 60,000 Americans are treated each year after possible exposure to rabies, the CDC says. Five Americans died of rabies last year — the largest number in a decade — and health officials said that some of the people didn’t realize they had been infected or refused life-saving shots.

There were no rabies deaths reported in 2019 or 2020. The last time five U.S. rabies deaths were reported in a single year was 2011, CDC officials said.

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