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DHSS Press Release

Molly Magarik, Secretary
Jen Brestel, Director of Communications  

DPH Media Contact:
Laura Matusheski, Media Relations Coordinator

Date: May 22, 2023


DOVER, Del. (May 22, 2023) - During spring and summer, rabies, which is occasionally found in community cats and wildlife, is more likely to be transmitted to humans and pets due to our increase in outdoor activities. To avoid exposure to rabies, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) advises residents to take the proper precautions.

Rabies is endemic in Delaware, meaning it occurs regularly within the state's wildlife populations. Since 2018, 64 animals have tested positive for rabies in Delaware. That number represents only a fraction of rabies in Delaware since, in most cases, DPH only tests animals that have potentially exposed humans to rabies. The most common hosts of rabies in Delaware are community cats, bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

In 2018, Delaware detected its first fatal human rabies case in 77 years. It is unknown how the individual, a Kent County resident, became infected, although community cats were reported in the area. Community cats are defined as free-roaming, stray or feral cats. Rabies is a nearly 100% fatal, yet preventable viral disease. People usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal. It is also possible, but rare, for people to get rabies from non-bite exposures, including scratches, abrasions or open wounds that are exposed to saliva or other potentially infectious material from a rabid animal. It is essential to take the following precautions to prevent rabies exposure and ensure a healthy and enjoyable summer.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Rabies:

NOTE: the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) does not rehabilitate wildlife. The state issues permits to trained volunteers with experience rehabilitating wildlife and returning native animals to the wild. If you need a wildlife rehabilitator, contact the Delaware Council of Wildlife Rehabilitators and Educators.

How to protect your pets from rabies:

Additional Resources:
If you have been potentially exposed to an animal infected with rabies:

If You Encounter an Animal Behaving Aggressively:

If You Encounter a Sick or Injured Animal:

For more information on the DPH rabies program, visit or call 1-888-285-5156 (24/7) or 302-744-4995 (business hours).

For more information on rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at

Community Cats

Community cats are often seen outdoors during spring and summer./Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf-Blind or speech disabled can contact DPH by dialing 711 first using specialized devices (i.e. TTY, TeleBraille, voice devices). The 711 service is free and to learn more about how it works, please visit

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, and 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.