FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Five people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after potentially being exposed to rabies in the Lynchburg area of Lee County by a stray dog that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.
The stray dog began showing neurological symptoms and was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on May 9. Rabies was confirmed in the dog on May 11.
During care and handling of the dog, a total of five people were potentially exposed. It is unknown how the dog contracted the rabies virus, however, bite wounds were discovered on the animal.
In addition, five pet dogs were potentially exposed to the rabies virus by the stray dog. None of these pets were current on their rabies vaccinations and are required to undergo a 180-day quarantine or be euthanized per the Rabies Control Act.
"To reduce the risk of contracting rabies, please play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "We recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild.
"Rabies is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into a bite wound, into open cuts in skin, or onto mucous membranes such as the mouth or eyes," said Craig.
Pets, particularly those that stay outdoors, have the potential to come in contact with wild or stray animals. If a pet returns home with unexplainable, visible wounds, immediately seek veterinary treatment and inform your local DHEC Environmental Quality Control office. In addition, keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect your family and pets from this fatal disease.
"Time is of the essence," Craig said, "because a family member or a beloved pet might be saved if treated properly and in a timely manner."
Every year several hundred South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies after potentially being exposed to the rabies virus. 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 such as distemper or lead poisoning.
The dog from Lee County is the first animal from that county to test positive for rabies in 2016. There have been 36 confirmed cases of rabies statewide this year. There were a total of 130 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina in 2015. Three of the 2015 cases were from Lee County.
For more information on rabies, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at: http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. CDC's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.
DHEC Media Relations