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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2015

Fox exposes two people to rabies in Newberry County

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care providers for post-exposure consultation after being potentially exposed to rabies outside of Pomaria's city limits in the vicinity of Gateway Drive by a fox that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

The exposure occurred on June 5, 2015. The fox was seen in multiple locations over a half-mile area northeast of Pomaria before it was killed. The fox tested positive for rabies on June 8.

All bites and scratches from wild animals need to be reported to DHEC. As this fox covered a large area near the Palmetto Trail northeast of Pomaria, DHEC reminds anyone in that area who was bitten or scratched to contact our Midlands Environmental Quality Control Office at 803-896-0620.

The rabies virus can be passed from rabid animals to other animals and people via saliva up to two weeks before the infected animal shows signs of rabies. If any pets from the area came into direct contact with a fox or were found to have unexplained, visible wounds between May 21 and June 5, please contact DHEC's Midlands EQC office for further investigation as pets might need to be quarantined and vaccinated.

The rabies virus is transmitted only from one mammal to another through exposure to saliva or neural tissue. If you are not exposed to saliva or neural tissue from a rabid animal, you cannot contract the disease.

"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.

"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."

According to Craig, it is impossible to tell by appearance if a wild or stray animal has rabies or another condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning. If you see a wild or stray animal behaving abnormally, always play it safe. Do not touch or approach the animal, and keep your pets and children safely away from it. 

If your pet is bitten, scratched, licked, or otherwise potentially exposed to the saliva from an abnormally behaving wild or stray animal, make sure to handle your pet with care, and call the local DHEC EQC office to report this incident. You and your family can be exposed to the rabies virus if the fresh, wet saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as eyes, nose, and mouth.

During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. There have been 68 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first to test positive in 2015 from Newberry County. There were seven that tested positive in that county in 2014.

Vaccination is always the best way to help protect your pet and your family from this disease. For additional information on rabies, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769