COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after being exposed to rabies in the southeastern part of Anderson County by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.
"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). "About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."
The individuals were exposed to the disease on Sept. 11, and the animal was confirmed rabid by lab testing on Sept. 12.
"Rabies is a threat to humans, pets and wild animals," Craig said. "All pet owners should have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated regularly as required by state law. It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family and you that pet vaccinations are kept up-to-date.
"Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined or euthanized," she added. "Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC-sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring, and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics.
"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," Craig said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
There were 124 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 100 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the fifth to test positive in 2014 from Anderson County. There were 12 animals that tested positive in that county in 2013.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.
Public Information Director