Human deaths from rabies are common in some developing countries (where tens of thousands die from canine rabies every year) but rare in developed countries. It’s an almost invariably fatal disease, but at the same time it’s almost completely preventable because of the quality of vaccines and post-exposure prophylaxis available. Getting those treatments to the people who need them is the big barrier.
In developed countries, it’s not an issue of vaccine access, but usually a lack of awareness of the need for it.
Recently, a woman in Delaware died of rabies. This was only the 2nd rabies death in the state’s history, and the first since 1941. Little information has been released and there’s no indication of a likely source that I’ve seen. The woman owned a cat and it’s apparently being monitored, so there’s no chance that it could have been the source of infection given the timeline. Wildlife, such as bats and raccoons, are a more likely source. Bat bites are a concern in particular, since they are usually very minor and easy to dismiss (or miss altogether).
Whatever the case here, increased rabies awareness is still needed, even in North America. That includes the general public, physicians and veterinarians. More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page, and in our archives.