DHSS: Del. man bit by rabid raccoon; officials offer safety tips

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Health officials offer precautions against rabid animals, after they say a man was bit by a raccoon with rabies, in Delaware.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services last week a man was bit by a raccoon while putting up Christmas decoration in his yard, in the King's Creek community and surrounding areas of Rehoboth Beach. The raccoon was apparently hidden in some bushes. 

Officials say the animal was captured and taken to DPH Lab, where test results came back on Wednesday confirming the raccoon had rabies. Health Officials report that the man has begun treatment for the bite.

According to DHSS, since January 2017, officials performed rabies tests on 137 animals, 17 of which were confirmed to be rabid, including five raccoons, seven cats, two dogs, two bats and one fox. Six of the positive rabies cases involved a bite to humans. 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. 

Officials say 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, the Division of Public Health recommends that people receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment, a series of four vaccinations, as a precautionary measure. 

DHSS is offers the following tips as precautions against rabies for humans and pets:

-Avoiding wild and feral animals, regardless of whether or not the animal seems "friendly." Not all rabid animals exhibit the classic signs of the rabies illness, such as aggression, depression or other abnormal behavior.
-Ensuring their pets are up to date with rabies shots. 
-Keeping pets indoors or, while outside, supervising them on a leash.  
-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. It is recommended to consult with your private veterinarian if you have any questions regarding whether your animal(s) should be rabies vaccinated. 
-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 handle unfamiliar animals, including cats and dogs, even if they appear friendly.

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