Woman Calls for Change after Suspected Rabies Encounter - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Woman Calls for Change after Suspected Rabies Encounter

Posted: Dec 18, 2017 4:58 PM Updated:

SUSSEX COUNTY, Del.- A Georgetown woman says more must be done to handle rabies cases after she says she encountered a rabid fox in her yard the same day a Rehoboth Beach man was bitten by a rabid raccoon.

"Obviously it's an issue," Dana Hastings says. "I thought to myself that poor man would've been bitten regardless if he saw it coming and called for help because [the state] would've said, 'We cant help you.'"

Hastings says a fox appeared in her yard, attacked a possum, chased cats and even bit her stepfather's pant leg. While the fox was not officially tested for rabies, Hastings says the animal exhibited all the symptoms.

"The number one show tell sign is no fear of humans and it was aggressive towards us," she says. "So it was really scary. I have a 6-year-old who lives in this house. He has to go to the bus every morning and they weren't helping us."

Hastings says she called multiple state agencies, such as the Division of Public Health, DHSS' Rabies Hotline, and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and was told that no state agencies could respond unless a person was bit. 

"They said, 'We don't have the funding to come out and take care of cases like that,'" she tells WBOC.

The Division of Public Health told WBOC it does not comment on specific cases, but that the last report of human exposure to a potentially rabid animal to DPH was related to a Rehoboth Beach racoon bite. DPH also issued the following statement when asked for comment:

The Division of Public Health has responsibility for follow up when potential human exposure to rabies through a scratch, bite or saliva has occurred. If a person thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or come into contact with saliva from an animal they believe could be rabid, they should call the DPH Rabies Program at 302-744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7. If there is human exposure identified, the Office of Animal Welfare will respond to pick up the animal for testing. The Department of Agriculture has involvement when an animal to animal bite has occurred. The Department of Agriculture administers rabies quarantines for animals that have been exposed to an animal suspected of having rabies. Department of Agriculture inspectors assist the Public Health Laboratory by preparing samples for rabies testing. In addition, If a member of the public spots wildlife that appear to be sick or injured, but no contact through scratch, bite or saliva occurred, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) asks individuals to contact DNREC's Wildlife section at 302-735-3600 or 302-739-9912.

If human exposure occurred and 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. 

DPH recommends that members of the public take the necessary steps to stay clear of exposure to rabies: 
Residents should take precautions against rabies by:
• 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.

Hastings says her family eventually killed the fox and disposed of it, but hopes that her situation can create awareness and potential logistical change.

"It has to be addressed because Sussex County has a lot of woods," she says. "I would like to see someone step up and either delegate the funds. I don't see how much it would cost to trap some animals."

For more on the state of Delaware's guidance on rabies, click here

 

 

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