by Terri McCollister
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.
As of 9/25/2019 there have been 109 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. In 2018, there were 100 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.
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.
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. (As part of our effort to increase awareness of rabies, we encourage you to participate in this year’s photo contest that features your vaccinated pets and livestock. You can view contest rules on our website. (The World Rabies Day photo album will be posted on Facebook or Flickr.)
DHEC invited South Carolinians to send in photos of their vaccinated pets and livestock to help raise awareness about rabies prevention for World Rabies Day. #EndRabies
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 stray animals 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 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 here.
For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies.