(LEWES, Del.)- Last week the second person to ever die from rabies in the state of Delaware passed away. This woman lived in a rural area of Felton. 1 in 3 people in the United States pass away from this illness each year but it hasn't happened in Delaware since 1941.

Rabies is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal and it affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals.

The woman in this case was admitted to a Delaware hospital in late July after becoming ill but then her condition got worse and she was transferred to a hospital in Pennsylvania before passing away last week. Early tests hinted at the possibility of the virus, but rabies was not confirmed in this case until late last week.

Feral cats and wildlife lived close to the victim and she had an indoor cat of her own but the animal that infected her hasn't been confirmed. Delaware health officials said on a conference line this morning that it would no longer be alive. "There were no remains of animals found except for a few bones from an animal that could not be identified down to any species. it could have been any type of smaller mammal so we don't have any idea if there may have been a dead animal there that would've presented the animal that could have infected this woman," says Dr. Karen Lopez of the Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Karyl Thomas Rattay, Director of The Delaware Division of Public Health says that this is unusual. "Typically a person knows if they were bitten or scratched and by what animal and that allows us to perform testing for rabies. If confirmed, we advise the person to start post-exposure treatment."

Rabies is endemic in the animal population. It has been confirmed in 9 animals throughout Delaware since January 1st.

To prevent exposure, animal bites and scratches should be immediately reported to health officials so that preventive treatment can be initiated. Anyone who finds that an animal has been bitten or scratched by another animal is advised to contact the Department of Agriculture at 302-698-4630 or rabies.hotline@state.de.us.

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.

This case in Delaware is rare. The Division of Public Health and Department of Agriculture are asking residents to increase efforts to prevent exposure because rabies is almost always completely preventable.

There haven't been any cases of human-to-human transmission in the United States other than from organ transplantation. The Division of Public Health says that the risk of rabies being spread to anyone of even the closes contact with the victim is low.