By Travis Shealy, DHEC Rabies Prevention Program Manager
World Rabies Day, September 28, is an international campaign that seeks to raise awareness about rabies in order to enhance prevention and control efforts. Rabies is a deadly virus that kills people, pets, and wildlife across the globe. Education and regular vaccinations are the key to #EndRabies.
What is Rabies?
The SC Rabies Application provides statistics of rabies cases by county, species, and year. View rabies statistics across the state here.
Rabies is a virus (Lyssavirus) that is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a person or animal. This usually occurs through a bite; however, saliva contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies. After exposure, the rabies virus infects cells in the central nervous system causing infection and inflammation in the brain and, ultimately, death.
Any mammal has the ability to carry and transmit the disease to humans or pets. The key to prevention is to stay away from wild and stray animals and keep your pets current on their rabies vaccinations! 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.
As of September 27, 2017, there have been 52 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. In 2016 there were 94 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide.
World Rabies Day Poster Contest
Join us in the fight to #EndRabies by keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination. Vaccinations not only protect your pets and livestock, they also protect you and your family from this deadly virus. (As part of our effort to increase awareness of rabies, we encourage you to participate in this year’s poster contest. You can view contest rules on our website. The winning World Rabies Day posters will be posted on Facebook and Flickr.)
DHEC invites South Carolinians to create and submit posters to help raise awareness about rabies prevention for World Rabies Day. #EndRabies
Another great way to safeguard against rabies is to always give wild and stray animals their space and to educate your children on the dangers of handling unknown animals. If you see a wild animal that appears sick, contact your local animal control office, police/sheriff’s department, pest control operator, or wildlife rescue/rehabilitation group 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.
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 for rabies testing. Contact your local DHEC Environmental Health Services office to report the incident.
Reporting Possible Rabies Exposure
If you’re bitten or scratched by an 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 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 scdhec.gov/rabies.
World Rabies Day is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). To see GARC’s press release on its Zero by 30 campaign (zero human deaths from rabies by 2030), please visit rabiesalliance.org/news/towards-rabies-free-world.