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June 21, 2011

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

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two Sumter County men are 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 June 17th in the Rembert area when a fox came to drink out of a swimming pool while several people were there,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. “The fox came back to the pool later and stole a man’s hat. When he went to retrieve the hat, the fox bit the man on his foot. The next day the fox attacked a backhoe on the same property. A man shot the fox and removed its’ head for testing, which was positive for rabies.”

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the two men are 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 Sumter County in 2011. Last year, there was one raccoon confirmed in the county. In 2010, there were 106 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 44 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's Web page at: or contact DHEC’s Sumter County Environmental Health Office at (803) 773-5511. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web page about rabies can be found at:


For more information:
Thom Berry – (803) 898-3885
E-mail –