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First rabies death in Delaware since 1941 reported

Delaware Public Media

The Division of Public Health confirms the first death from rabies in Delaware in almost 80 years.

The woman from rural Kent County west of Felton was admitted to a local hospital in late July. Her status rapidly worsened and she was transferred to a hospital in Pennsylvania for further testing and treatment where she passed away last week.

The Delaware Division of Public Health was informed the patient tested positive for rabies on Thursday.

Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay says physicians did not suspect the patient had rabies when she was admitted to the Delaware hospital.

“When she presented with the hospital, she presented with what appeared to be gastral enteritis—so vomiting and diarrhea. Unfortunately, her clinical situation quickly deteriorated,” said Rattay.

Rabies is transmitted by animal bites and scratches, but the source of the patient’s bite is not known.

“Typically a person knows if they were bitten or scratched and by what animal, and that allows us to perform testing for rabies,” said Rattay.

Department of Ag officials say no dead animals likely to have bitten the patient were found on her property.

The Division of Public Health has confirmed nine cases of rabies in animals this year.

The patient is the first Delawarean to die from rabies since 1941 and the second rabies death in the US this year.