Delaware Woman Dies of Rabies in the State's First Case Since 1941

A Delaware woman has died of rabies, and is the first in the state to die of the disease since 1941.

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) said that the unnamed woman had gone to a Delaware hospital in late July after feeling sick, and was quickly moved to a Pennsylvania hospital when her condition deteriorated. She died last week, but test results did not show that she had rabies until it was too late. Health officials are still unsure how she contracted rabies.

The rabies virus spreads from animal bites, typically from coyotes, raccoons, bats, foxes and other animals carrying the disease. Rabies infects the nervous system quickly with symptoms that can include a fever, muscle spasms, headaches, mental confusion and more, and is almost always fatal, as there’s no effective treatment. The best method to avoid contracting rabies is for people to get vaccinated if they believe they’ve been infected, and to vaccinate animals.

RELATED VIDEO: 6-Year-Old Florida Boy Dies After Being Bitten by Rabies-Infested Bat

“Because rabies is a fatal disease once symptoms develop, we urge all Delawareans to ensure they are taking steps to avoid exposure,” DPH director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in a press release. “This is a largely preventable disease.”

The last rabies death in Delaware, in 1941, occurred when a young boy in Newport contracted the disease from a dog bite.

Only one or two people typically die of rabies in the U.S. each year. In January, a 6-year-old boy in Florida died from the disease after he was bit by a rabid bat.

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