A white-tailed deer has tested positive for rabies in the area of Kings Creek Circle and Road 273 in Rehoboth Beach, according to the Delaware Division of Public Health.
The division reported that the deer was showing signs of symptoms and was removed from a residential property on Sept. 1. It was then tested for rabies, and the results came back positive on Sept. 8.
Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten, scratched or come in physical contact with a white-tailed deer in this area — which is on the bayside of the highway near the Kings Creek Country Club, or in the area behind Jungle Jim’s — should immediately contact their health care provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at 302-744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7.
Rabies is not commonly found in white-tailed deer. But since Delaware’s deer hunting season started Sept. 1, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has advice for anyone hunting in the area where the rabid deer was found.
What to do if hunting near rabid deer
- Minimize handling and do not consume any deer that was acting abnormal or appeared to be sick when harvested.
- Always wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing deer.
- Minimize the handling of the deer’s brain and spinal cord.
- Do not allow pets around your field dressing area to prevent contact with deer blood and other tissues.
- Wash hands, boots and knives thoroughly after finishing field dressing a deer.
- If you harvest a deer and have it commercially processed, request that your venison is processed individually.
- Properly cook and prepare your venison.
Tips for preventing 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.
- Reduce the possibility of your pets being exposed to rabies by keeping them indoors and not letting them roam free. If pet owners allow their cats to roam outdoors, it’s especially important 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, reducing 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.
What to do if you find an animal behaving aggressively
If you encounter a wild animal behaving aggressively or foaming at the mouth, the state recommends you contact the DNREC Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912 or 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 at https://wildlifehelp.org/. Calls after hours and on weekends can be made to the 24-hour dispatch number at 800-523-3336.
Do not throw items at the animal or make loud banging noises, which may startle the animal and cause it to attack. Instead, 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 find 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 302-739-9912 or 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.
Since Jan. 1, 2021, DPH has performed rabies tests on 139 animals, 11 of which were confirmed to be rabid, which includes one dog, one raccoon, one skunk, one fox, three cats, three bats and this deer. DPH only announces those rabies cases for which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with additional humans or pets.
In 2020, DPH performed rabies tests on 121 animals, four of which were confirmed to be rabid, including one raccoon, one bat, and two cats.
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. Rabies in humans and animals cannot be cured once symptoms appear. Therefore, if a human has been exposed, and the animal is unavailable to be quarantined or tested, DPH recommends that people receive post-exposure prophylaxis treatment, a series of four vaccinations, as a precautionary measure.