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Jan. 13, 2016

York County horse exposes two people to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after being exposed to rabies in the Rock Hill area of York County by a horse that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.

The horse initially appeared to be lame but later progressed to exhibiting aggressive behavior. The victims were exposed to rabies while providing husbandry care to the horse on January 7, 2016. The horse was euthanized on Jan. 8 and submitted for testing to DHEC's laboratory, which confirmed rabies on Jan. 11.

South Carolina law requires pet owners to vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets. The law does not require owners of agricultural animals to vaccinate for rabies; however, rabies vaccines for cows, horses and sheep have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

DHEC strongly recommends that owners vaccinate:

* All horses

* Any livestock that have frequent contact with humans

* Any livestock that are particularly valuable

* Animals used for raw milk or raw milk product production.

Horses must be vaccinated for rabies before being transported out-of-state.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people use caution when pets or livestock exhibit sudden changes in behavior," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS)."This is especially true if owners notice unknown injuries on their animals, or stray/wild animals seen mingling with livestock or pets.

"Every year, several hundred South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies after being potentially exposed to the rabies virus," Craig said. "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. Rabies in horses may present with symptoms similar to colic or neurological disease. The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory."

The best way to protect your animals and your family from this fatal disease is to keep your animals up-to-date on their vaccinations. The horse from York County is the first animal from that county to test positive for rabies in 2016. There have now been 2 confirmed cases of rabies statewide in 2016. There were 9 animals that tested positive in York County in 2015 and a total of 130 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina in 2015.

For additional information on rabies and livestock, please visit For more information on rabies, visit, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at: CDC's rabies webpages can be found at


Jim Beasley
Public Information Director