COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care provider for consultation after being exposed to rabies in the Bishopville area of Lee County by a raccoon that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.
The exposures occurred on March 8, 2015, and the raccoon tested positive for rabies on March 10.
"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."
One of the victims was exposed while attempting to rescue a family pet from the raccoon; the second victim was exposed while tending to the injured pet. The raccoon was provided to DHEC's Bureau of Laboratories for testing.
"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."
During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. There have been 27 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the second to test positive in 2015 from Lee County. There were none that tested positive in that county in 2014.
DHEC-sponsored rabies vaccination clinics are now underway. Vaccination is the best way to help protect your pet and your family from this disease. To find a clinic near you, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/Health/DiseasesandConditions/InfectiousDiseases/InsectAnimalBorne/Rabies/Clinics/. 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/.
CDC's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.
Public Information Director