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Rabies

It is the mission of the Bureau of Epidemiology to prevent and control the transmission of rabies to residents and visitors of Delaware.



What is Rabies?

  • Rabies is a preventable viral disease usually caused by the bite of an infected mammal.
  • The virus infects central nervous system and ultimately results in death.

I stay rabies free...I avoid wildlife

What animals can get rabies?

  • Only mammals carry rabies.
  • Most common among wild animals such as raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes.
  • Pets and livestock can get rabies if they are not vaccinated to prevent infection.
  • The most common carrier of rabies in Delaware is the raccoon.
  • Among domestic animals, feral cats are most frequently diagnosed with rabies in Delaware.


Delaware - Confirmed Rabies Cases by Species


Species 2010 2011 2012 2013
Raccoon 3 1 7 8
Fox 1 1 3 4
Bat 0 0 1 3
Cat 5 3 2 1
Skunk 0 1 0 0
Dog 0 0 0 0
Groundhog 1 0 0 1
Sheep 0 0 1 0

Delaware - Rabies Tests Performed


Year Statewide Total New Castle County Kent County Sussex County
2010 158 76 43 31
2011 183 88 49 40
2012 200 95 50 46
2013 145 55 39 49


Delaware - Total Animal Bites Reported


Year Statewide Total New Castle County Kent County Sussex County Unknown County Out of State
2010 2059 1003 407 463 2 184
2011 2086 988 405 494 4 195
2012 2222 1050 428 526 9 209
2013 2206 1012 470 519 7 198


How is rabies spread to humans?

  • After being bitten or scratched by an infected animal.
  • Less common routes of exposure include contamination of mucous membranes (i.e., eyes, nose, mouth) and aerosol transmission.

What should I do if I am potentially exposed to rabies?

  • Wash all wounds thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately even if the wound seems minor.
  • All medical providers are required to report potential human exposure to the Delaware Division of Public Health by contacting the Rabies Hotline or by completing the human exposure report.
  • Healthy dogs, cats and ferrets that have bitten or potentially exposed a human can be quarantined and observed for 10 days following the exposure. If the animal remains healthy during this period, it did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite.
  • Management of animals other than dogs, cats and ferrets depends on many factors such as species, circumstances of the bite, the biting animal’s history, and the animal’s potential for exposure to rabies. These situations are managed on a case-by-case basis.
  • If an animal cannot be observed or tested for rabies, as is common with many types of wildlife, treatment may be necessary for the people exposed. The Bureau of Epidemiology will assist you and your physician to make that determination.

What is the treatment for people exposed to rabies?

According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), treatment after rabies exposure consists of:

  • A single dose of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), plus 4 doses of rabies vaccine given over a two week period on days 3, 7, and 14 following the initial injection. (Individuals with weakened immune systems may require a 5th dose of vaccine).
  • A person who has already been vaccinated for rabies and is exposed again must receive two booster doses of vaccine, three days apart. These individuals do not need the HRIG injection.

What can people do to protect themselves against rabies?

Do not feed the wildlife.

  • Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals, stray dogs or cats.
  • Teach children not to touch any animal they do not know and to tell an adult immediately if they are bitten by any animal.
  • Be sure your pet dogs, cats and ferrets are properly immunized against rabies.
  • Keep family pets indoors at night. Never leave a pet outside unattended or let them roam free.
  • Do not attract wild animals to your home or yard. Keep your property free of bird seed or other foods that may attract wild animals.
  • Feed pets indoors.
  • Tightly cap or put away garbage cans.
  • Board up any openings to your attic, basement, porch or garage and cap your chimney with screens.
  • If a wild animal is on your property, let it wander away. Bring children and pets indoors and alert neighbors who are outside. You may contact a nuisance wildlife control expert who will remove the animal for a fee. These professionals can be found in your telephone directory under pest control.
  • Bats can be very difficult to keep out of homes and other buildings because they can enter through very small cracks. “Batproofing” should be done during the fall and winter months. Pest control experts can provide these services for a fee.

How do I protect my pet from rabies?

  • Vaccinate pets and keep their shots up-to-date.
  • If your pet is injured by another animal or presents with an unknown wound after being outdoors contact your veterinarian for medical care. Your pet may need to be quarantined for a short period of time to assure they were not exposed to a rabid animal.
  • For any questions regarding an animal quarantine, please contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) at 302-698-4630.
  • Delaware Animal Care and Control (DEAC&C), located at the First State Animal Center and SPCA, will visit the home of any person that has been bitten or experienced exposure to blood or body fluids. This service is provided throughout the state of Delaware. DEAC&C can be contacted (toll free) at 888-352-7722 or 302-698-3006.

Links to current Rabies media releases:

More information about rabies:




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Last Updated: Thursday February 27 2014
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