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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 15, 2011

Beaufort County residents advised to not feed, care for wild animals

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Three people who cared for what they thought was an injured raccoon are 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 raccoon was found struggling as it walked along a road in the Okatie community," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "An individual took the animal home to care for it but its condition worsened and it was eventually taken to a veterinarian."

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so two women and a female child are receiving preventive inoculations. Five other individuals are being evaluated as to whether they will receive the treatment.

"We cannot stress enough the importance of resisting the urge to adopt or feed wildlife. Despite the prevalent folklore, there is no way to tell from looking at an animal whether or not it has rabies, and baby animals can carry the disease without showing symptoms as well," Ferguson said.

"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 shold 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 fifth confirmed rabid animal in Beaufort County in 2011. Last year, there were five rabid animals 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 77 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 Beaufort County Environmental Health Office (843) 525-7627. 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 media inquiries:
Adam Myrick – (803) 898-3884
Email – myrickar@dhec.sc.gov
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