Two people whose dog found and killed a rabid skunk in their backyard are being treated for possible exposure to rabies.
The Delaware Division of Public Health is advising people who live or spend time in the area west of Route 273, near S. Brownleaf Road, Sonant Drive and Stature Drive in Newark, that the skunk tested positive on Wednesday, June 30.
Anyone who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with a skunk in this area should immediately contact their health care provider or call the Public Health Rabies Program at 302-744-4995 at any time.
Anyone in the area who thinks a skunk may have bitten their pet should call their private veterinarian for examination, treatment, and to report the exposure to the Delaware Department of Agriculture at 302-698-4500.
The dog was taken to a vet Thursday to receive the post exposure rabies vaccine and is now on a 45 day quarantine, Public Health said. The dog was up to date on its rabies vaccine.
Rabies in an infectious disease that must be treated within a specific time frame to cure.
Since Jan. 1, 2021, Public Health has performed rabies tests on 75 animals, two of which were confirmed to be rabid, including one cat and this skunk. 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 affects 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, mout, 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, health officials recommend people receive post-exposure prophylaxis treatment, a series of four vaccinations, as a precautionary measure.
To avoid rabies exposure:
- 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.
- 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 your pet’s 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 your pet may reduce the tendency to roam or fight and, thus, reduce the chance they will be exposed to rabies.
- Keep your garbage securely covered.
If you encounter an animal behaving aggressively:
- Contact the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s 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. Here is a list of nuisance wildlife control operator.
- Do not throw items at the animal or make loud banging noises, which may startle the animal and cause it to attack. Instead, if the animal is behaving in an aggressive manner or appears to be foaming at the mouth, raise your hands above your head to make yourself appear larger to the animal while slowly backing away. If the animal 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 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:
- Delaware residents are asked to contact the DNREC’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912 or 302-735-3600.
- If you encounter a sick stray domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, contact the Office of Animal Welfare at 302-255-4646.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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