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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2015

Laurens County raccoon, Anderson County cat expose victims to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after being exposed to rabies. The first exposure occurred in the Gray Court area of Laurens County in association with a raccoon that tested positive for the disease. The second exposure occurred in the Williamston area of Anderson County by a cat that also tested positive for rabies, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.

The Laurens County exposure occurred on Oct. 1, 2015, when a raccoon attacked the victim. The raccoon had previously been seen on the victim's property. It was put down and submitted for testing after the exposure. The raccoon tested positive for rabies on Oct. 2.

The Anderson County exposure occurred on Oct. 2, when the victim attempted to pet a stray cat. The cat was later seen acting abnormally and succumbed to the disease on Oct. 4, and tested positive for rabies on Oct. 8.

"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."

"Both people and animals are susceptible to the rabies virus. The rabies virus is known to be transmitted from mammal to mammal through exposure to saliva or neural tissue," Craig said.

Craig asks that everyone play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space. Once symptoms of rabies 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 only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.

During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. Statewide this year, there have been 104 laboratory confirmed cases of rabies in animals. The raccoon was the first animal to test positive in 2015 from Laurens County. There were 7 that tested positive in that county in 2014.

The cat from Anderson County was the seventh animal to test positive in 2015. There were 12 that tested positive in that county last year.

Vaccination of your dog, cat or ferret 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/.

CDC'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