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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 3, 2016

Beaufort County raccoon potentially exposes three people to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Three people have started post-exposure treatment after potentially being exposed to rabies by a raccoon that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.
The victims were exposed to two raccoons in the Mossy Oaks area near Port Royal while trying to provide care for the animals. One of these raccoons started behaving abnormally on Oct. 27, 2016, and died the following day. The raccoon was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on Oct. 31, and was confirmed to have rabies on Nov 1.

The raccoon is the thirteenth animal in Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2016. Ten of the 13 animal rabies cases in Beaufort County were in or in close proximity to the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal. In contrast, during 2015, only three of the 130 animal rabies cases in South Carolina were located in Beaufort County. This data indicates an increase in rabid animal activity in this community during this year. To date, there have been 88 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year.

In an effort to reduce the risk to public health, DHEC would like to remind residents in the City of Beaufort, the Town of Port Royal and surrounding areas of this increase and that DHEC urges caution when dealing with wild or stray animals.

Raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are the primary carriers of rabies in the state. Always play it safe and give wild animals their space. Wild animals should not be kept as pets. If you see a wild animal in need, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

"Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body, usually through a bite, or contact with an open wound or areas such as the mouth or eyes," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services.

Hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, due to exposure to a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

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

To find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator go to: www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/rehab/. For more information on rabies visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or CDC's rabies webpage at www.cdc.gov/rabies. To contact your local DHEC BEHS office see: www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/.

 

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DHEC Media Relations
media@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.1127