By Travis Shealy, DHEC Rabies Prevention Program Manager
World Rabies Day, Sept. 28, is an international event that seeks to raise awareness about rabies in order to enhance prevention and control efforts. Rabies is a deadly virus that kills humans, pets, and wildlife across the globe. Education and regular vaccinations are the key to #EndRabies.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a virus (Lyssavirus) that can be transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a healthy person or animal. It infects cells in the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and, ultimately, death. Any animal with rabies has the ability to transmit the disease to humans or pets. In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats. Keep in mind, pets are just as susceptible to the virus.
Rabies in S.C.
As of Sept. 1, 2016, there have been 68 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. In 2015 there were 130 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide.
The SC Rabies Application provides statistics of rabies cases by county, species and year. View rabies statistics across the state here.
Join us in the fight to #EndRabies by keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. This not only protects your pet, it protects you and your family from this deadly virus.
Another great way to safeguard against rabies is to avoid wild animals, particularly wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild, and to educate your children on the dangers of handling unknown animals. If you see an animal that appears sick, contact your local animal control office, wildlife control operator, rehabilitation group, or veterinarian for help. Never handle strays or wildlife, and make sure to keep them away from your family pets. You can learn more about rabies symptoms here.
Bats: Exposure to a rabid bat can easily be overlooked. Bat bites can go unnoticed because they have such small teeth, often people – especially children – don’t realize they’ve been bitten. If you find a bat in a room, tent or cabin where someone has been sleeping, or find a bat where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended, always assume a bite occurred. Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Contact your local DHEC Environmental Health Services office to report the incident.
Reporting Possible Rabies Exposure
If you’re bitten or scratched by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal care for the wound properly and contact your health care provider immediately. The health care provider is required by the Rabies Control Act to report the incident to DHEC.
If you or your child is bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed and you do not seek medical treatment for the wound, you are required by the Rabies Control Act to report the bite to DHEC by the end of the following business day.
Contact information for the Environmental Health Services office in your area can be found on our map.
For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies.