Dagsboro area: Fox tests positive for rabies

DAGSBORO — A fox that came in contact with a human this week in the Dagsboro area has tested positive for rabies, drawing an advisory from Delaware’s Division of Public Health.

The fox was located in the residential area between Colonial Estates Avenue and Thorogoods Road. It was killed and taken to the DPH Lab. Test results on Monday, July 9 confirmed it had rabies.

The fox was underneath the front porch of the victim’s residence and came up on the porch when the victim came outside.  The fox bit the heel of the victim’s shoe, but it did not contact the person’s skin.

Anyone in this area who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or have come in contact with the rabid fox should immediately contact their health care provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at 744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7.

Anyone who thinks their pet may have been bitten by this fox should call their private veterinarian or the Delaware Department of Agriculture at 698-4630.

Since Jan. 1, 2018, 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, one cat and one dog. The results of two cases previously reported as positive (one sheep and one dog) are 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. 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 one 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.

Fortunately, 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.

  • All dogs, cats, and ferrets 6 months of age and older are required by Delaware law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Consider vaccinating livestock and horses as well. It is recommended to consult with your private veterinarian if you have any questions regarding whether your 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 your pet may reduce the tendency to roam or fight and, thus, reduce the chance they will be exposed to rabies.
  • Do not keep your pet’s food or water outdoors; bowls can attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered.
  • Do not touch or otherwise handle unfamiliar animals, including cats and dogs, even if they appear friendly.

For more information on the DPH rabies program, visit http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/rabies.html or call 1-866-972-9705 or 302-744-4995. For more information on rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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