Tag Archives: Rabies

Animals Displaced By Hurricane Matthew Could Pose Danger

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.

You Can Help #EndRabies

By Travis Shealy, DHEC Rabies Prevention Program Manager

World Rabies Day is September 28th and is a global health observance that seeks to raise awareness about rabies and enhance prevention and control efforts. Rabies is a deadly virus that kills pets, wildlife and people across the globe. Rabies education and vaccinations are the key to #EndRabies.

What is Rabies?

The South Carolina Rabies Application provides the summary statistics of rabies cases by county, species and year.

The SC Rabies Application provides statistics of rabies cases by county, species and year. 

Rabies (Lyssavirus) attacks nerves in the spinal cord and brain and can be passed to a healthy person or animal via exposure to saliva or neural tissue from a rabid animal. In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, but pets contract the virus as well.

As of September 15, there have been 96 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina this year. There were 139 cases in 2014.  You can view rabies statistics across the state here

Rabies Prevention

Join us in the fight to #EndRabies by keeping your pets up-to-date with their rabies vaccinations – which protects not only your pet, but also you and your family from the virus.  Check out DHEC’s World Rabies Day 2015 album 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 www.scdhec.gov/rabies

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 http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies

Avoiding wild animals, particularly ones that appear to be injured, tame or behaving abnormally, and teaching your children to do the same is a great way to protect your family from rabies. If you see a wild animal that seems sick, contact your local animal control office, veterinarian, or wildlife rescue/rehabilitation group for help. Do not handle wildlife or strays and keep them away from your family pets. You can learn more about rabies symptoms here.


Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans and pets. People – especially children – sometimes don’t realize they’ve been bitten and it is very easy to overlook a bat bite because bat teeth are so tiny. If you find a bat in a room, a tent or a cabin where someone has been sleeping, with elderly or incapacitated persons, or where unattended children have been playing, always assume the bat could have bitten the person. Bats that have the potential to have been in contact with people, their pets or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Call your local 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. Please visit our map for contact information for the Environmental Quality Control office in your area.

For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies.

World Rabies Day is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC).

Give them their space!

By Cassandra Harris


Always play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space. They may be cute, but they’re not pets. Even healthy, wild animals often lash out at people in fear if they are cornered or touched. Bites and scratches can be painful, but they can also transmit diseases, viruses and parasites. One of those viruses is the rabies virus.

Both people and animals are susceptible to the rabies virus. The rabies virus is known to be transmitted from mammal to mammal through exposure to saliva or neural tissue. If you are not exposed to saliva or neural tissue from a rabid animal, you cannot contract the virus. Similarly, an animal that is not infected with the rabies virus cannot transmit the virus to another animal or a person.

For a list of rabies signs and symptoms, please visit our Signs/Symptoms of Rabies webpage. Once symptoms of rabies are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning. The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.

Although wild animals contract rabies most often, domestic pets can contract the disease as well. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.

For additional information on rabies, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or http://www.cdc.gov/rabies. You may also contact your local DHEC BEHS office.

Rabies Testing Prevents Medical Treatment for Exposed Individuals

By Betsy Crick


Rabies is a deadly animal virus that attacks the nervous system of mammals. Any animal that has either hair or fur, and gives birth to live young is a mammal, which includes humans. The virus can be passed to a healthy animal or a person by bite, scratch, or fresh, wet saliva from a rabid animal that comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as eyes, nose, and mouth.

In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats.  About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can become infected with the rabies virus as well. Wild animals don’t make suitable pets due to the lack of approved rabies vaccines to protect these animals and the people who keep them.

There was a recent case in which a caged raccoon had bitten two people.  Sometimes, getting individuals to release their animals for testing can become difficult, because the animal must be euthanized in order to be tested. But thanks to the great work from environmental staff in DHEC’s Lowcountry Region who worked closely with the raccoon’s owner, this particular raccoon was tested for rabies – and was negative – thus saving two individuals from receiving post-exposure prophylaxis, a preventive medical treatment started immediately after exposure.

DHEC is proud to promote and protect the health of the public and the environment.  For more information on rabies, please visit DHEC’s website.

Preventing Dog Bites

By Jim Beasley
Each year in the U.S., about 885,000 people require immediate medical attention for dog bites. Half of them are children, with seniors following close behind. This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, as established by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dog bites can be costly and dangerous. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2014, insurers across the country paid more than $530 million in dog bite claims. The trauma of a dog bite — or any animal bite, for that matter — can be compounded by the risk of exposure to the deadly rabies virus.

Dog bites occur regularly in South Carolina, too. Last year, more than 8,300 dog bites were reported across the state. Sometimes, those attacks require medical attention for possible exposure to rabies.

Vaccinating your pets serves as a strong buffer between humans and rabies. Dog, cat and ferret owners in this state are required to have their pets vaccinated. It’s the law.

But the law can’t prevent dog bites. It’s estimated there are 83 million dogs living in U.S. households. According to the AVMA, most of the dog bites affecting young children occur while the children are performing everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. It’s not just the wandering stray that bites.

To learn more about the AVMA’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week, go to http://www.avma.org/Events/pethealth/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention-Week.aspx. And to learn more about preventing the spread of rabies in S.C., visit our page at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies.