COLUMBIA - Three people in Kershaw County and six in Greenwood County have been referred to health care providers for preventive treatment after being exposed to rabies, the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.
A stray cat in Camden exposed three people during separate incidents on July 21 and July 22 before being captured. The cat was confirmed rabid by lab tests on July 23.
An unvaccinated pet dog in Ware Shoals exposed six people to rabies on July 21. The dog also tested positive for the disease on July 23.
Both incidents involved exposures to people and other animals. These exposures serve to remind residents of the dangers of this potentially deadly disease. There have been 11 positive cases of rabies so far this month in S.C., including one case involving an unvaccinated dog and two cases involving unvaccinated cats.
"Rabies is a threat to humans, pets and wild animals. All pet owners should have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated regularly as required by state law," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family, and you that pet vaccinations are kept up-to-date.
"Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be either euthanized or quarantined," Craig said. "Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics."
"Contact with wild animals, particularly raccoons, foxes, bats and skunks, is the primary way that people, domestic animals, and livestock are exposed to rabies," she said. "This time of year, we spend more time outdoors and have a greater chance of coming in contact with wild or stray animals. The same is true for our pets, which stand the risk of being bitten or scratched by an infected animal. Pet owners should check their pets for bites and scratches if pets have been in contact with stray or wild animals. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild, and to keep in mind that mammals can transmit rabies even if they don't appear sick.
"If you are bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal or get the animal's saliva in a wound, wash the area immediately with plenty of soap and water," Craig said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
Each year nearly 275 South Carolinians are recommended to undergo preventive treatment after being bitten by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. There were 124 confirmed cases of rabies in animals during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 71 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This incident in Kershaw County is the third case for that county in 2014 while the case in Greenwood County is the fifth case this year for that county. Kershaw County saw five cases of rabies in 2013 while Greewood County saw seven confirmed cases.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC environmental health services office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.
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