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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2011

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

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A Fairfield County resident is under the care of a physician after being exposed to a fox that tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

“The incident began April 28th near the Ridgeway- Lake Wateree area when the fox was struck by a car the individual was driving,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. “The driver stopped and was scratched by the fox while trying to rescue it. The fox later tested positive for rabies.”

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the individual is undergoing the 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 Fairfield County in 2011. Last year, there was one skunk confirmed rabid in the county. In 2010, there were 106 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 27 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 Fairfield County Environmental Health Office at (803) 635-6481. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage 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
Email – berrytw@dhec.sc.gov
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