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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 5, 2016

Anderson County skunk exposes one person to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - One person has been referred to their health care provider for consultation after being exposed to rabies in an area of Anderson County between Homeland Park and Lake Hartwell by a skunk that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.

The individual was exposed to rabies through a bite from the skunk on Dec. 30, 2015. The skunk tested positive for rabies on Dec. 31. 

"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). "Please play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space. About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most, but not all, exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal."

According to Craig, 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.

"The virus is known to be transmitted from mammal to mammal through exposure to saliva or neural tissue. The threat of rabies is still present even after an animal is deceased," Craig said. "Please keep this in mind and be extremely cautious if you find yourself in a situation where you have the potential to be exposed to the saliva or neural tissue (for example: brain or spinal cord) from an animal--dead or alive. Never handle a wild or stray animal, dead or alive, with your bare hands." 

The best way to protect your pet and your family from this fatal disease is to keep your pets up-to-date on their vaccinations. 

This skunk is the ninth animal from Anderson County to test positive for rabies in 2015, compared to a total of 12 animal rabies cases in the county in 2014. The skunk brings the total number of cases statewide in 2015 to 130 cases compared to a total of 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in the state in 2014.

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