DPH issues warning over Dagsboro fox discovered to have rabies

Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) this week warned Dagsboro residents who live in the residential area between Colonial Estates Avenue and Thorogoods Road in Dagsboro of a positive case of rabies in a fox that came into contact with a human last week.

DPH officials said the fox was killed and brought to the DPH lab, where test results on Monday, July 9, confirmed it had rabies. The fox was initially located underneath the front porch of a residence and came up on the porch when the victim came outside, officials said. While the fox bit the heel of the person’s shoe, it did not make contact with the person’s skin, they said.

Anyone in that area who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with the rabid fox should immediately contact their health care provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at (302) 744-4995, officials advised, noting that an epidemiologist is available 24/7. Anyone who thinks their pet may have been bitten by the fox should call their private veterinarian or the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) at (302) 698-4630.

Since Jan. 1, the Division of Public Health (DPH) has performed rabies tests on 73 animals, seven of which were confirmed to be rabid, including three foxes (including this one), two raccoons, a cat and a dog. The results of two cases previously reported as positive (one sheep and one dog) were indeterminate. (While DPH treats cases with indeterminate results the same as those with positive results, going forward the agency will report indeterminate cases out separately, they noted.)

In 2017, DPH performed rabies tests on 143 animals, 16 of which were confirmed to be rabid, including five raccoons, six cats, two dogs, two bats and a fox. DPH only announces those rabies cases for which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with humans and there is a risk of exposure to the community.

Rabies in humans and animals cannot be cured once symptoms appear. If the animal is of unknown origin, or unavailable to be quarantined or tested, DPH recommends that people receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment — a series of four vaccinations — as a precautionary measure.

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.

However, rabies is also almost completely preventable. DPH recommends that members of the public take the necessary steps to stay clear of exposure to rabies. Rabies prevention begins with the animal owner. Vaccination of pets and livestock is a crucial factor in rabies prevention, they said.

· All dogs, cats and ferrets 6 months or older are required by Delaware law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Owners should consider vaccinating livestock and horses as well, officials said. It is recommended to consult with a private veterinarian for any questions regarding whether an animal(s) should be vaccinated against rabies.

· Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free.

· Spaying or neutering a pet may reduce the tendency to roam or fight and thus reduce the chance they will be exposed to rabies.

· Do not keep a pet’s food or water outdoors; bowls can attract wild and stray animals.

· Keep garbage securely covered.

· Do not touch or otherwise handle unfamiliar animals, including cats and dogs, even if they appear friendly.