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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2016

Update: Spartanburg County skunk exposes one person to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after a possible rabies exposure in the Enoree area of Spartanburg County by a skunk that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.

The skunk fought with the victims' dogs. Afterward, the victims were potentially exposed to the skunk's fresh saliva by handling the dogs. The exposure occurred on March 8, 2016, and the skunk was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing the same day. The skunk was confirmed to have rabies on March 9.

The dogs will undergo a 45-day quarantine as they are current on their rabies vaccinations. If the dogs had not been current on their rabies vaccinations, a 180-day quarantine would have been required.

"Rabies is transmitted only from saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal when the virus is introduced into a bite wound, into open cuts in skin, or onto mucous membranes such as the mouth or eyes," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "In general, the rabies virus is no longer infectious if the material containing the virus is dry. However, if a pet has fresh, wet saliva from a rabid animal on their body, it is a good idea to take precautions."

"If your pet is bitten or potentially exposed to a wild or stray animal, handle your pet with care. If you are examining or cleaning any wounds on your pet, protect your hands by wearing gloves or using another type of barrier. Consult your veterinarian if your pet has been bitten or exposed to another animal and seek care for your pet if they are wounded," Craig said.

Every year several hundred South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies after potentially being exposed to the rabies virus. 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.

In addition to being cautious around wild or stray animals, keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect your pet and family from this fatal disease.

The skunk from Spartanburg County is the first animal from that county to test positive for rabies in 2016. There have been 20 confirmed cases of rabies statewide this year. There were a total of 130 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina in 2015. Five of the 2015 cases were from Spartanburg County.

For more 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.

Note to editors: DHEC has obtained new information that clarifies the details of an incident related to a skunk that tested positive for rabies in the Enoree area of Spartanburg County. The March 10, 2016, News Release reported that there was only one victim and that the victim had been potentially exposed to the rabies virus through contact with the carcass of a rabid skunk. The update indicates that there are two victims and both were exposed after handling pet dogs that came into direct contact with the skunk. Rabies statistics have also been updated to reflect a 20th statewide case which was identified on March 10, 2016. The 20th case involved a raccoon and a pet. There was no human exposure and the case is completely unassociated with the Spartanburg skunk.

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Cassandra Harris
Public Information Officer
harriscs@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.1127