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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 9, 2010

Charleston County residents advised to stay away from wild animals; vaccinate pets against rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A North Charleston woman who was exposed to rabies by a raccoon is under the care of a physician after the animal tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"The woman was exposed as she attempted to help the raccoon after it was attacked by a dog," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health.

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the woman is receiving 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, residents should 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 third confirmed rabid animal in Charleston County in 2010. Last year, there were five 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 72 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC's Charleston County Environmental Health Office (843) 202-7020. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage 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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