A deer showing symptoms of rabies on a residential property in Rehoboth Beach has tested positive for rabies, the Delaware Division of Public Health said in a press release on Friday. That's extremely uncommon — a spokesperson for DPH said they have no record of previous rabies-positive deer in Delaware.
However, like any mammal including humans, deer can get the fatal disease and a number of incidents of deer with rabies have been reported in other states over the years.
This deer was found in the area of Kings Creek Circle and Road 273, and the DPH advised anyone who thinks they have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with a deer in this area to immediately call a health care provider, or the DPH Rabies Program at 302-744-4995.
This is the second confirmation of a rabies case in Sussex County this week. On Wednesday, the Delaware Division of Public Health warned local residents east of Greenwood that a fox that bit a human on Friday, Sept. 3, tested positive for rabies.
With hunting season having just started, the the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control recommends the following for anyone hunting in the area where the rabid deer was found:
- 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.
Since the beginning of this year, DPH has tested 139 animals in Delaware, 11 of which were confirmed to be rabid, including a dog, a raccoon, a skunk, the recent fox case, three cats, three bats and this deer. In 2020, DPH confirmed four rabies cases.
Rabies can only be treated before symptoms begin, and it is fatal. 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.