A fox in Rehoboth Beach tested positive for rabies after an out-of-state visitor came into contact with the animal.
The incident occurred on Friday, March 18 in the vicinity of Bayard Avenue and Philadelphia Street.
The Delaware Division of Public Health is now advising Sussex County residents who live or spend time near that area to take caution.
The individual involved has been contacted to begin treatment for rabies exposure, according to the division.
Residents in the area who think they may have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with a fox should contact their health care provider and call the DPH Rabies Program at (302) 744-4995.
An epidemiologist is available 24/7 to handle rabies-related cases.
Residents in the area with pets who may have encountered the fox are advised to call their private veterinarian for examination and treatment, and report the exposure to the Delaware Department of Agriculture.
Since Jan. 1, 2022, the Division of Public Health has performed rabies tests on 46 animals, two of which were confirmed to be rabid: one raccoon and one fox, including this positive animal.
The division only announces those rabies cases for which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with additional humans or pets.
In 2021, the division performed rabies tests on 188 animals, 19 of which were confirmed to be rabid, including one dog, one deer, one fox, one cow, two skunks, three cats, four raccoons and six bats.
Rabies is a preventable disease. The Division of Public Health recommends that individuals take the following steps to prevent 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.
- 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.
If you encounter an animal behaving aggressively:
- Contact the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section at 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 here.
- 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 302-735-3600. 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 this website or call 302-744-4995. For more information on rabies, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/rabies/.
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