Animals are no different from humans when it comes to evacuating their homes during disasters such as hurricanes. But wild and stray animals displaced during a disaster can become disoriented and a danger during — and after the ordeal.
As South Carolina continues to recover from Hurricane Matthew, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reminds residents to use caution if they encounter a wild or stray animal.
“Wildlife may have been displaced from their normal habitats due to flooding and wind damage to nesting and feeding areas. As such, these animals may be in areas closer to humans. You may also see more stray animals as pets may have become separated from their owners. To help prevent injuries from bites and scratches and to avoid potential rabies exposures, always play it safe and give animals their space, particularly wild and stray animals.” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.
If you have a question or concern about possible exposure to an animal, please contact DHEC’s Environmental Health Services central office at 803-896-0640.
Protect your pets – and yourself
As a general reminder, keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family and your pets from this fatal disease.
“Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body, usually through a bite, or contact with an open wound or areas such as the mouth or eyes,” said Craig.
Hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, due to exposure to a rabid or suspected rabid animal.
There have been 80 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2015, South Carolina reported 130 confirmed rabid animal cases.
Keep your distance
Please avoid contact with stray domestic or wild animals. Instead of trying to catch or rescue them, call for trained, professional help such as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Visit the DHEC website for more information on rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office. You also can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage.