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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: April 27, 2012


Rabies Awareness and Prevention is Important

Two raccoons, one in Frederica and one in Frankford, tested positive for rabies this week after contact with residents' dogs. No humans were bitten. The Division of Public Health reminds people that as weather warms and we start spending more time outdoors, we increase our risk of exposure to rabid animals. DPH advises that wild mammals in Delaware should be regarded as if they may have rabies, no matter their location. Pet vaccinations and awareness are the best defense. Since January 2012, the Delaware Public Health (DPH) Laboratory has tested 30 animals, of which three (10 percent) were found positive for rabies. There were six confirmed cases of rabies in animals in 2011.

Rabies is a deadly disease that kills both animals and humans. When untreated, the rabies virus is almost always fatal. Fortunately, rabies is also almost 100 percent preventable. DPH would like to help members of the public take the necessary steps to stay clear of exposure to rabies.

"It's important to remember that having unvaccinated pets or spending time outdoors can put you within reach of a rabid animal," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director, Division of Public Health. "DPH urges people not to approach or feed wild animals and strays. Protect yourself, your pet and the community by getting your animals vaccinated."

Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner. Vaccination of pets and livestock is a crucial factor in rabies prevention.

In Delaware raccoons, foxes, bats, skunks and cats have been the most frequent carriers of rabies. Active outdoor lifestyles have many benefits but can put individuals at risk for exposure.

If you are bitten, wash the bite wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention. If your pet is bitten, consult your veterinarian. Prompt and appropriate treatment after being bitten is crucial to prevent the disease in humans and animals.

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain) and can be transmitted to animals and humans. Humans become infected with rabies when they are bitten or scratched by an animal infected with rabies. Transmission is usually through saliva via the bite of an infected animal. All mammals are susceptible to rabies.

Fortunately, for persons who have been exposed to an infected animal, there is a highly effective treatment to prevent rabies. This treatment is referred to as Postexposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and consists of a four-dose rabies vaccination regimen in combination with rabies immune globulin. Administration of PEP is considered a medical urgency, not a medical emergency.

A summary of 2012 testing to date:

Tested Positive Percent
BAT 4 0 0%
CAT 11 0 0%
DOG 11 0 0%
RACCOON 3 2 67%
SHEEP 1 1 100%
Total 30 3 10%

For further information:

Delaware Division of Public Health's rabies program: or call 1-866-972-9705 or 302-744-1070.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.