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DHSS Press Release

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

Date: June 6, 2014



DOVER (June 6, 2014) - Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) is warning residents of the Route 89/Chestnut Street area of Milton about a fox which was found to be rabid by the DPH Lab on Thursday, June 5, 2014. The fox bit one individual from this community before being caught, euthanized, and tested for rabies. This individual began post-exposure treatment to prevent rabies on June 2, 2014. This fox was known to have contact with a feral cat colony in this area. Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten, scratched or had saliva contact with any fox or feral cat should contact their healthcare provider, or call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.

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.

Warm summer temperatures lead to more outdoor activities, increasing possible exposure to rabies through contact with animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Rabies is an infectious disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. 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.

Since January 2014, DPH has performed rabies tests on 38 animals, two of which were confirmed to be rabid, including one feral cat and this fox. 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.

Rabies cannot be cured once symptoms appear. Therefore if a person is potentially exposed by an animal that tests positive for rabies, they will have to receive rabies shots (post exposure prophylaxis) to prevent them from developing the disease.

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 and cats to First State Animal Center and SPCA at 1-888-352-7722.

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:

If you need additional information, please call the Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.

Individuals seeking TTY services should call 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460. A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can use a TTY to type his/her conversation to a relay operator, who then reads the typed conversation to a hearing person at the DPH call center. The relay operator relays the hearing person's spoken words by typing them 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.