An apparently rabid she-wolf terrorized the residents of Tiberias on Thursday, biting 11 of them before being shot dead by an emergency services volunteer.
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The attacks began in the morning and continued for hours into the afternoon, as Tiberias police and municipal inspectors swept the area to apprehend the biting beast.
A volunteer with United Hatzalah of Israel, an independent emergency medical service, spotted the she-wolf Thursday afternoon and shot it to death. The animal's remains were being transferred to the Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Services unit to determine what it was infected with.
For hours, officials and Tiberias residents were unsure whether the animal was a rabid dog or jackal. One of the victims, Kobi Itzik, said he was at the Tiberias hotel where he works when he saw a woman who got bitten on her arm and leg.
"It really looked like a wolf, not a dog, and then he jumped on me and bit my leg," Itzik said. "I struggled with the animal and slammed it against a wall, but it wouldn’t get off me; it was really strong. Then it ran off, and later I realized that it bit other people as well."
Tiberias Mayor Yosef Ben David said the city was taking the day's events extremely seriously and that authorities were doing their utmost to apprehend the animal. He urged the public to avoid coming into contact with the animal, and asked anyone who saw it to contact authorities.
Last year, a similar incident occurred in the central Golan Heights, when a rabid dog bit nine youths hiking in the area. They were vaccinated against rabies and were their friends who treated their wounds.
The number of rabies cases in Israel has grown in recent years, mainly in northern Israel. In 2007, 15 cases were reported, while 58 were reported in 2009. Last year, the number of cases dropped to 29.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system and is usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal – which is typically characterized by increased salivation and abnormal behavior. The early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to that of other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. However, left untreated it leads to eventual paralysis and death.
Around 60,000 people die annually from rabies despite the fact that it is preventable with appropriate medical care.