Rabid fox attacks stray cats in Frankford

The Delaware Division of Public Health is warning Frankford residents after a rapid fox attacked stray cats in the area.

The rabies test results came back positive on March 31 for a fox that frequented the Burbage Road and Route 374 area of ​​Frankford, public health officials said. The fox did not have any known contact with humans, however, officials said, there were reports of the fox attacking stray cats. If the attacked cats develop rabies, they will become a public health threat, especially to anyone who feeds them.

Anyone who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched by, or encountered a fox or feral cat in this area should immediately contact their health care provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at 302-744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7. Anyone in the area who thinks a fox may have bitten their pet should call their private veterinarian to have their pet examined and treated, and the exposure reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Since Jan. 1, DPH has performed rabies tests on 53 animals, three of which were confirmed to be rabid, which includes one raccoon and two foxes, including this positive animal. DPH only announces those rabies cases for which it is possible the animal had unknown contacts with additional humans or pets. In 2021, DPH performed rabies tests on 193 animals, 19 of which were confirmed to be rabid, which includes one dog, one deer, one fox, one cow, two skunks, three cats, four raccoons, and six bats. These numbers differ from previous reports after a 2021 rabies data review.

Rabies is a preventable disease. DPH recommends that individuals take the following steps to prevent 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.
  • Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by keeping them indoors and not letting them roam free. It is especially important for pet owners who do allow their cats to roam outdoors 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 and, thus, reduce 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 regarding whether your animal(s) should be vaccinated against rabies.

If anyone who encounters an animal behaving aggressively, officials recommend contacting the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912 or 302-735-3600. Do not throw items at the animal or make loud banging noises, which may startle the animal and cause it to attack, officials said. Instead, one should raise their hands above their head to make yourself appear larger to the animal while slowly backing away from it. If the animal starts coming toward you, sternly yell “Get away,” and if that fails, officials say, use any means to protect oneself including throwing an object at the animal or trying to keep it away by using a long stick, shovel, gold fishing pole.

If anyone encounters a stray or feral domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, behaving aggressively, contact the Office of Animal Welfare at 302-255-4646. 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. To report a sick stray domestic animal, such as a cat or dog, contact the Office of Animal Welfare at 302-255-4646.

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