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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 15, 2015

Puppy exposes four people to rabies in Oconee County

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Four people have been referred to health care providers for consultation after being exposed to rabies in the Seneca area of Oconee County by a puppy that tested positive for the virus, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.

The puppy was attacked by a skunk several weeks ago and received veterinary care for injuries. The puppy was too young to have been vaccinated against rabies at the time of the incident and died. Lab results confirmed rabies on January 14, 2015. The skunk was a wild animal and was not available for testing.

At this time, four individuals, including family members, have been referred to health care providers for post exposure consultation. 

"Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined or euthanized," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). "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. "

"Talk to your veterinarian to determine when you should vaccinate a young puppy or kitten, as well as when to schedule a booster," Craig said. "While puppies and kittens are still very young and not fully immunized, they should be monitored whenever they are outside in order to reduce possible exposure to diseases."

 "Rabies is a threat to humans, pets, and wild animals. 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. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," Craig said. "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."

During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. There have been 8 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first animal to test positive in 2015 from Oconee County. There were 2 animals that tested positive in Oconee County in 2014.

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/. CDC's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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For media inquiries:
Cassandra Harris
Public Information Officer
HARRISCS@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.1127