Judith Jaffe was jogging along the Washington & Old Dominion bicycle path west of Vienna in Fairfax County one afternoon this week when she was attacked by a rabid fox.

"It made this lunge for my leg. It just would not let go," said Jaffe, a fourth-grade teacher at Mosby Woods Elementary School. "It was horror; I was afraid the thing was going to be chewing me all over."

The fox had a grip on her ankle. Another jogger happened along and beat the fox off with a stick. The animal fled, but minutes later bit another woman sitting in a lawn chair at a nearby residence. An animal warden was able to track and kill the fox.

The two women are undergoing treatment. While fox attacks are somewhat unusual in the Washington area, officials said rabies has continued to be a problem since an epidemic began in 1982, and there appears to be a resurgence in some jurisdictions.

"Rabies is endemic in the wild animal population in Washington," said Richard Amity, director of Fairfax County Animal Control. Amity said there have been two other fox attacks in Fairfax this year, both in the Falls Church area.

There were 12 cases of rabid foxes reported in Virginia last year, 25 in Maryland and none in the District, according to Dr. George Baer, chief of the rabies laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that can be transmitted to humans through animal saliva, said Baer. Nationwide there are few deaths from rabies and there were none last year, he said.

The most common carriers of the disease are skunks, raccoons and foxes, but the paramount carrier in the Washington area has been the raccoon, Baer said.

The rabies epidemic in the Washington area has been blamed in part on trappers who imported raccoons to this area so they would proliferate, officials said.

Dr. Suzanne Jenkins, assistant state epidemiologist at the Virginia Health Department, said that what began as an epidemic in Northern Virginia around 1982 has spread to the central areas of the state. Rabies tends to come in cycles because the disease kills off the animals, Jenkins said.

Dr. Jack K. Grigor of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that the number of rabies cases in that state peaked several years ago. However, he said, the epidemic continues with a "minor secondary wave" being experienced in Montgomery, Howard and Frederick counties.

The District was virtually "rabies free" until the first reported cases in 1982, said Dr. Martin E. Levy of the D.C. Commission of Public Health. He said the peak in the District was in 1983, and there have been 36 reported cases of rabid animals so far this year.

The experts said that rabies contracted from wild animals is only part of the problem. For example, in fiscal 1987, which ended in July, there were 1,344 animal bites reported in Fairfax alone, said Amity. He estimated that only 5 percent were caused by wild animals, with the majority by ordinary house pets. Most of the domestic animals were not rabid, but a few were, Amity said. He did not have precise numbers.

"What we try to get across to people is {that} the important thing is to avoid contact with any wild animal and stay away from any unknown domestic animal," Amity said. Despite county ordinances, Amity said some residents still keep raccoons as pets, and others let their cats and dogs roam where they can be targets for rabid animals.

Amity said that when he heard about the attacks near Vienna about 5 p.m. Wednesday, he had little doubt the fox was rabid before it was examined. He said rabid animals will become manic, "completely out of their head," and have been known to attack cars.

After the attack, Jaffe said she was taken immediately to Fairfax Hospital and given three injections before tests were performed on the fox.

Jaffe, who is on crutches, said she needs four more injections. While rabies shots are no longer administered in the stomach, Jaffe said they are a bit "uncomfortable."

She said she is grateful to the jogger who helped her on the bicycle path, and she has tried unsuccessfully to find him. Amity said that the other unidentified victim was visiting the area from Washington state and health department officials have said she is undergoing treatment there.