Delaware's Division of Public Health is warning residents in the Sharpley area near Mt. Lebanon and Sharpley Roads who may have come into contact with a raccoon found to be rabid April 20.

The raccoon was picked up after getting into a fight with a domestic cat in the area and died during the altercation with the cat and pet owner. The cat is currently under quarantine after exposure.

Anyone who thinks they might have been bitten, scratched or come in contact with a raccoon should contact their health care provider or call the DPH Rabies Program at 744-4995. An epidemiologist is available 24/7. Also anyone who thinks their pet may have been bitten by this raccoon should call their private veterinarian or the Delaware Department of Agriculture at 698-4630.

Residents should take precautions against rabies by:

— Avoiding wild and feral animals, regardless of whether or not the animal seems “friendly.”

— Ensuring their pets are up-to-date with rabies shots.

— Keeping pets indoors or, while outside, supervising them on a leash.

Spring and summer temperatures lead to more outdoor activities, which increase possible exposure to rabies through contact with animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.

Rabies tests have been performed on 27 Delaware animals, five of which were confirmed to be rabid, including three raccoons, one cat and one dog, since January. The Office of Animal Welfare has gone door to door near where the raccoon was found to talk to residents and distribute literature.

Rabies in humans and animals cannot be cured once symptoms appear. If the animal is of unknown origin or unavailable to be quarantined or tested, the Division of Public Health recommends that people receive postexposure prophylaxis treatment, a series of four vaccinations, as a precaution.

Rabies is an infectious disease affecting the nervous system of humans and other mammals. 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.

DPH recommends that members of the public take the necessary steps to stay clear of exposure to rabies. Rabies prevention starts with the animal owner. Vaccination of pets and livestock is a crucial factor in rabies prevention.

— Dogs, cats and ferrets 6 months of age and older are required by Delaware law to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Consider vaccinating livestock and horses.

— Pet owners can reduce the possibility of pets being exposed to rabies by not letting them roam free.

— Spaying or neutering a pet may reduce the tendency to roam or fight and thus reduce the chance they will be exposed to rabies.

— Do not feed pets outdoors; bowls can attract wild and stray animals.

— Keep garbage securely covered.

— Do not handle unfamiliar animals, including cats and dogs, even if they appear friendly.

For information, call 866-972-9705 or 744-4995 or visit