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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: November 14, 2014


DOVER (November 13, 2014) - Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) is warning residents of the Buckley subdivision, particularly in the area of Paxton, Calburn, and Channing Streets, in Bear, Delaware, that a kitten tested positive for rabies on Nov. 10, and all but one kitten in the same litter died of similar symptoms. While the litter of four-week-old kittens was confined to a private residence, it is likely there were adult cats that spent their time both outdoors and indoors that infected the kittens. Both indoor and outdoor cats can get rabies.

The owner surrendered the cats to Delaware Animal Care and Control. It is a large indoor and outdoor cat colony with more than 50 cats and no reliable information to show rabies vaccinations for the large number of cats in question. The cats will be euthanized given the extent of the possible rabies exposure. Rabies is a disease that is easily spread and always fatal in animals and can be fatal in humans if they do not receive immediate preventive treatment after a potential exposure.

At this time there are no known bites or exposures to humans from any of these cats. However, any person who suspects they may have had contact with a rabid animal should call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 888-295-5156. DPH notified all known potentially exposed individuals of the positive feline rabies results, including the owner and staff at the veterinary clinic, and referred them for post-exposure prophylaxis.

DPH reminds residents that rabies is endemic in Delaware. Residents should always take precautions against rabies by avoiding wild or unfamiliar animals and ensuring their pets are up-to-date with rabies shots. Residents should make an appointment with a veterinarian to have their pets inoculated against rabies. All Delaware animal shelters provide low-cost vaccination services as well, and residents can contact their local shelter for more details.

Infection can occur through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or if saliva from such an animal gets into the eyes, nose, mouth or an opening in the skin. Rabies cannot be cured once symptoms appear. Therefore if a person is potentially exposed to an animal that tests positive for rabies, they will have to receive rabies shots (post exposure prophylaxis) to prevent them from developing the disease.

Since January 2014, DPH has performed rabies tests on 126 animals, 8 (including this kitten) which were confirmed to be rabid. DPH only tests animals for rabies when there is potential human exposure. This means there may be many more infected wild animals than suggested by these numbers.

Signs of rabies in animals include daytime activity in normally nocturnal animals, wild animals approaching humans or other animals, and difficulty walking or moving. Some rabid animals may be very aggressive while others may be very weak and have excessive salivation. Keep people and pets away from animals with any unusual behavior. Report stray dogs to Delaware Animal Control at 302-698-3006.

Take the following steps to avoid rabies:

In an effort to promote 100 percent vaccination of all companion animals in Delaware, decrease human-wildlife conflicts, and promote responsible pet care-taking, DPH also recommends the following.

By law, all cats, dogs, and ferrets over the age of 6 months have to be vaccinated against rabies. DPH also recommends vaccinating against other diseases, such as distemper and the parvo virus. Pet cats should be kept indoors for their own safety and well-being. Cats can live happy lives indoors with proper enrichment and family play time. Cats that roam outside can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals, or can be exposed to parasites and diseases. If you care for cats living outdoors, ensure those cats are current on rabies vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. Spaying/neutering cats will eliminate the urge to fight, reducing the likelihood of disease transmission through bite injuries. Persons on government assistance may qualify for the State Spay and Neuter Program and can learn more at de.gov/fixmypet. Never feed wildlife intentionally or unintentionally with unsecured trash. If you care for cats living outdoors, always remove uneaten food after feeding times. This will prevent unwanted wildlife from being attracted to the food and wandering into places where people also reside. This will reduce the likelihood of wildlife attacks on humans or pets.

Never approach or handle unfamiliar free-roaming cats. If there are free-roaming cats living in your area, contact a local organization with the expertise and training to trap the cats to have them vaccinated and spayed or neutered to improve neighborhood safety from disease and reduce unwanted litters.

If you need additional information, contact the Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 888-295-5156.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

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. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.

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.