COLUMBIA, S.C. - One person has been referred to their health care provider for post-exposure treatment after being exposed to rabies near Columbia in Lexington County by a fox that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.
The exposure occurred on July 11, 2015. The injured fox was being cared for when it bit a care provider. The fox was euthanized and tested positive for rabies on July 13.
"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."
Always play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space. Once symptoms are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning.
The rabies virus is only transmitted from mammal to mammal 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 virus.
"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 78 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the seventh to test positive in 2015 from Lexington County. There were five that tested positive in that county in 2014.
Vaccination is 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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