UPDATE: Raccoon rabid, tests show

Victim to receive series of shots to prevent infection
January 12, 2018

Story Location:
23070 Cypress Drive
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

An Angola woman attacked by a raccoon who entered her home through a cat door faces a complete series of rabies shots after the raccoon tested positive for rabies.

Christine King had already received a dozen shots before the test confirmed the shots were necessary. Her husband, Bruce King, said state officials informed the couple Jan.12 the raccoon was rabid. 

In an interview Jan. 11, Christine King said she and her husband could laugh about the early morning hours of Jan. 10, when she was attacked in her home by a raccoon.

“It was quite the scene,” she said, chuckling. “Me screaming and my husband standing there naked with no glasses, shooting his gun.”

Bruce chimes in, “It was a big coon – 30 inches. I knew not to shoot it in the head because that’s how they test for rabies.”

The Kings, who live off Camp Arrowhead Road in Angola, have four cats, and they have a back entrance cat door so the cats can come and go. Bruce said raccoons have entered the cat door before, but this was the first time a raccoon went past the food bowls.

“I used to hunt,” Bruce said. “Now, I only kill things that attack us.”

Christine said she thought a cat was causing the ruckus in her bedroom, and when she got out of bed to see what it was, the raccoon attacked her.

“At first I thought one of my cats was going crazy, but then I looked down and saw it was a damn raccoon,” she said. The electric furnace at the foot of her bed and the wooden floor just to the right have the bullet marks to prove the story.

This is the second time in a month a person in the Cape Region has been bitten by a raccoon.

In mid-December, public health officials confirmed a raccoon bit a homeowner who was hanging up decorations in Kings Creek. That raccoon tested positive for rabies. At the time, Jen Brestel, community relations officer for the Division of Public Health, said the raccoon was hiding in some bushes when the homeowner in the Rehoboth Beach community was bit Dec. 9.

According to the Division of Public Health, only mammals carry rabies and the most common carrier of the disease in Delaware is the raccoon. A public health pamphlet defines rabies as a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system – brain and spinal cord.

The pamphlet also says exposure to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies, but if rabies exposure is not treated and a person develops clinical signs of rabies, the disease is always considered to be fatal.

“If treatment is initiated promptly following a rabies exposure, rabies can be prevented,” the pamphlet states.

Bruce said state officials notified him Jan. 12 that the raccoon was rabid. He said he wanted to get the message out for people to be on the watch.

Bruce also commended the professionalism of the emergency service personnel who helped them.

“From the 911 call, to the ambulance drivers to the emergency room doctors, their professionalism was outstanding,” he said.

Christine said it’s easy for Bruce to say that because he wasn’t the person getting shots in both arms, both buttocks and in the open wounds by two people at the same time. “I was squeezing his hand so hard it hurt,” she said, again laughing. “If I’m going to be in that much pain, so is he.”

Christine said she’s scheduled for another shot Saturday, Jan. 13, and then two more the following week. 

In a Jan. 11 email, Brestel said since Jan. 1, health department officials have performed rabies tests on four animals, three of which were negative for rabies, and one result is pending. “DPH only announces lab-confirmed positive rabies cases in which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with humans and there is risk of exposure to the community,” she said.

Anyone who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with a raccoon should immediately contact their healthcare provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at 302-744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also anyone who thinks their pet may have been bitten by this raccoon should call their private veterinarian or the Delaware Department of Agriculture at 302-698-4630.

This story has been updated with recent comment from Jen Brestel, community relations officer for the Division of Public Health.

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