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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 9, 2010

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

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A Greenville County woman who was bitten by a raccoon June 3 will be under the care of a physician after the animal tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

“The incident occurred at a home near the downtown area of Greenville when the captured raccoon was being removed from the property,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. “The woman, who had received preventive treatment in the past, will have two booster shots. A man with her may have to undergo preventive treatment after being possibly exposed to the raccoon.”

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the woman will receive the two booster preventive inoculations.

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.

“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, we strongly encourage residents to make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.

“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 Greenville County in 2010. Last year, there were 11 rabid animals confirmed in the county, including six raccoons, four foxes and a skunk. In 2009, there were 152 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 37 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's Web page at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC’s Greenville County Environmental Health office at (864) 282-4151. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web page about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.

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For more information:
Thom Berry - (803) 898-3885
E-mail - berrytw@dhec.sc.gov
BNR1985