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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2010

Lexington County residents alerted about danger of rabies; advised to vaccinate pets

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A Pelion woman is under the care of a physician after being bitten by a cat that has tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

“The stray cat chased the woman and eventually bit her,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health.

According to Ferguson, anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain. Once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so she is receiving preventive inoculations.

“Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” Ferguson said. “About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.

“Therefore, to protect both the pets and their owners, all residents should make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies. Failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor charge.”

Ferguson said there will be reduced-cost rabies clinics to vaccinate pet dogs and cats held in Batesburg-Leesville and Gilbert during the next two weekends.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” she said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

This is the first confirmed rabid animal in Lexington County in 2010. Last year, there were eight rabid animals confirmed in the county. In 2009, there were 152 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 20 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies and upcoming rabies clinics around the state, see DHEC's Web page at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC’s Lexington County Environmental Health office at (803) 785-8113. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web page about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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For more information:
Adam Myrick - (803) 898-3884
E-mail - myrickar@dhec.sc.gov
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