Milton Delaware 19968United States
A Milton man is undergoing treatment after a bite from a rabid fox; public health officials warn others to take precautions, particularly around a colony of feral cats that live in the area where the fox was found.
"The assumption is they could be feral, so stay away from them," said Jill Fredel, communications director for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The man who lives in the area of Cave Neck Road, Route 88, and Chestnut Street area was bit by the fox June 2. Officials euthanized the fox and determined June 5 that the animal was rabid, Fredel said.
The resident is undergoing treatment for the bite, she said. Rabies cannot be cured once symptoms appear. If a person may have been exposed by an animal that tests positive for rabies, they will have to receive rabies shots to prevent them from developing the disease.
Paula Eggers, infectious disease epidemiologist with the Division of Public Health, said the man had been feeding about five cats in the area, which are part of a larger feral cat colony.
"Our concern is with the feral cats in the immediate area," Eggers said.
Those cats will be rounded up and euthanized by animal control, she said.
As for the larger feral cat community, Eggers said, animal control officers will assess the situation and determine what may need to be done.
Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten, scratched or had saliva contact with any fox or feral cat should contact their healthcare provider, or call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.
DPH reminds residents that rabies is endemic in Delaware. Residents should always take precautions against rabies by avoiding wild or unfamiliar animals and ensuring their pets are up-to-date with rabies shots.
Signs of rabies in animals include daytime activity in normally nocturnal animals, wild animals approaching humans or other animals, and difficulty walking or moving. Some rabid animals may be very aggressive while others may be very weak and have excessive salivation. Report stray dogs and cats to First State Animal Center and SPCA at 1-888-352-7722.
Take the following steps to avoid rabies:
Do not feed stray animals.
Never handle wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, or foxes. This includes sick, injured or dead animals.
If you wake up in a room with a bat present, seek medical attention regardless of the evidence of a bite or a scratch and call the DPH, Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156. If possible, trap the bat for testing. Do not release the bat.
If bitten by an animal, wash the site thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Keep cats and ferrets indoors and dogs on a leash under direct supervision. Homeless pets are vulnerable to rabies. Help reduce unwanted animals by spaying and neutering pets. Prevent bats and raccoons from entering homes or by capping chimneys with screens and blocking openings in attics, cellars and porches. Ensure trash cans have tight latching lids.
By law, all cats, dogs, and ferrets over the age of 6 months have to be vaccinated against rabies. Delaware also recommend vaccinating against other diseases, such as distemper and the parvo virus.
Pet cats should be kept indoors for their own safety and well-being. Cats can live happy lives indoors with proper enrichment and family play time. Cats that roam outside can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals, or can be exposed to parasites and diseases.
If you care for cats living outdoors, ensure those cats are current on rabies vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. Spaying/neutering cats will eliminate the urge to fight, reducing the likelihood of disease transmission through bite injuries.
Never feed wildlife intentionally or unintentionally with unsecured trash. If you care for cats living outdoors, always remove uneaten food after feeding times. This will prevent unwanted wildlife from being attracted to the food and wandering into places where people also reside. This will reduce the likelihood of wildlife attacks on humans or pets.
Never approach or handle unfamiliar free-roaming cats. If there are free-roaming cats living in your area, contact a local organization with the expertise and training to trap the cats to have them vaccinated and spayed or neutered to improve neighborhood safety from disease and reduce unwanted litters.