Delaware’s Division of Public Health has confirmed that a raccoon found in the Wilmington area had rabies. According to a state government press release, a DHP lab tested the animal after picking it up from the Chalfonte community in Wilmington and euthanizing it on April 13. The raccoon had fought with pet dogs while it was in the area.
The DHP is encouraging anyone who has been in any type of contact with a raccoon to see a medical professional or call the DHP Rabies Program at 302-744-4995. According to the press release, the program has an epidemiologist on call at all times. They are also urging anyone who thinks that their pet may have been bitten to visit their vet or call the Delware Department of Agriculture at 302-698-4630.
“As the weather gets warmer, people and their pets may be spending more time outside,” DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in the press release. “It is important for people to remember never to approach unfamiliar animals and to keep pets indoors or supervised on a leash while outside.”
Rabies is an infectious disease that targets the nervous system of mammals. The disease is transmitted through bites, scratches, and saliva, the DHP reports. According to CDC data, wild animals made up 92.6% of reported rabies cases in 2014, with raccoons making up 30.2% of all cases. Domestic animals made up just 7.37% of cases, making it a small portion of the $13.59 billion spent on vet care in the United States annually.
While there are steps that homeowners can take to keep raccoons away, such as cutting trees back six to eight feet, the best way to prevent contact is to stay away when you see them. The DHP recommends that all residents stay away from any feral animal.
“[Avoid] wild and feral animals, regardless of whether or not the animal seems ‘friendly,'” they said in the press release. “Not all rabid animals exhibit the classic signs of the rabies illness, such as aggression, depression, or other abnormal behavior.”
As for pets, the DHP recommends that pet owners keep their animals inside or supervise them on a leash when outside. While vets recommend that older pets have checkups twice per year, it is important to make sure that pets of all ages rabies are up to date on their rabies vaccinations. The DHP stresses the importance of following these recommendations, as rabies cannot be reversed.
“Rabies in humans and animals cannot be cured once symptoms appear,” the department said in a press release. “If the animal is of unknown origin, or unavailable to be quarantined or tested, the Division of Public Health recommends that people receive postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment, a series of four vaccinations, as a precautionary measure.”
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