The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is advising Rehoboth Beach-area residents who live or spend time in the vicinity of Kings Creek Circle and Road 273 of a positive case of rabies in a white-tailed deer in the area. The deer was showing signs of symptoms and was removed from a residential property on Sept. 1, officials said. It was then tested for rabies, which yielded positive results on Sept. 8.
Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten, scratched or come in physical contact with a white-tailed deer in this area should immediately contact their healthcare provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at (302) 744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7.
Although rabies is very infrequently found in white-tailed deer, officials said, with Delaware’s deer hunting season having begun on Sept. 1, DNREC recommends anyone hunting in the area where the rabid deer was found:
• Minimize handling and do not consume any deer that was acting abnormal or appeared to be sick when harvested.
• Always wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing deer.
• Minimize the handling of the deer’s brain and spinal cord.
• Do not allow pets around the field dressing area to prevent contact with deer blood and other tissues.
• Wash hands, boots and knives thoroughly after finishing field-dressing a deer.
• Those who harvest a deer and have it commercially processed should request that their venison is processed individually.
• Properly cook and prepare venison.
Rabies is a preventable disease. DPH recommends that individuals take steps to prevent rabies exposure:
• All dogs, cats and ferrets 6 months or older are required by Delaware law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
• Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by keeping them indoors and not letting them roam free. It is especially important for pet owners who do allow their cats to roam outdoors to vaccinate their pets.
• Do not touch or otherwise handle wild or unfamiliar animals, including cats and dogs, even if they appear friendly.
• Do not keep pets’ food or water outdoors; bowls can attract wild and stray animals.
• Do not feed feral animals, including cats, as the risk of rabies in wildlife is significant.
• Spaying or neutering pets may reduce the tendency to roam or fight and, thus, reduce the chance they will be exposed to rabies.
• Keep garbage securely covered.
• Consider vaccinating livestock and horses as well. It is recommended to consult with a private veterinarian on any questions regarding whether an animal(s) should be vaccinated against rabies.
Since Jan. 1, DPH has performed rabies tests on 139 animals, 11 of which were confirmed to be rabid, which includes one dog, one raccoon, one skunk, one fox, three cats, three bats and this deer. DPH only announces those rabies cases for which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with additional humans or pets.
In 2020, DPH performed rabies tests on 121 animals, four of which were confirmed to be rabid, including one raccoon, one bat and two cats.
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.
Rabies in humans and animals cannot be cured once symptoms appear. Therefore, if a human has been exposed, and the animal is 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.
If you encounter an animal behaving aggressively:
• It is recommended you contact the DNREC Wildlife Section at (302) 739-9912 or (302) 735-3600. Staff will determine whether it is more appropriate to refer callers to a private nuisance-wildlife control operator. A listing of nuisance wildlife control operators can be found at https://wildlifehelp.org/. Calls after hours and on weekends can be made to the 24-hour dispatch number at 1-800-523-3336.
• Do not throw items at the animal or make loud banging noises, which may startle the animal and cause it to attack. Instead, your initial response — if the animal is behaving in an aggressive manner or appears to be foaming at the mouth — should be to raise your hands above your head to make yourself appear larger to the animal while slowly backing away from it. If the animal starts coming toward you, raise your voice and yell sternly at it, “Get away!” If all that fails, use any means to protect yourself, including throwing an object at the animal or trying to keep it away by using a long stick, shovel or fishing pole.
• If you encounter a stray or feral domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, behaving aggressively, contact the Office of Animal Welfare at (302) 255-4646.
If you encounter a sick or injured animal:
•To report a sick or hurt wild animal, Delaware residents are asked to contact the DNREC’s Wildlife Section at (302) 739-9912 or (302) 735-3600. Staff will determine whether it is more appropriate to refer callers to a permitted volunteer wildlife rehabilitator.
• If you encounter a sick stray domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, contact the Office of Animal Welfare at (302) 255-4646.
For more information on the DPH rabies program, visit 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 & Prevention at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.