FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2018
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that two people have been referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a fox that tested positive for the disease.
Exposure to the fox occurred near the Town of Bluffton. The fox was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on July 16 and was confirmed to have rabies on July 17.
"Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite which allows saliva from an infected animal to be introduced into the body of a person or another animal. However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies," said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division.
"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space. If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator," said Vaughan.
It is also important to keep pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets from this fatal disease.
If you think you may have been exposed to an animal possibly infected with rabies through a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or neural tissue, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to your local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number (888) 847-0902.
This fox is the sixth animal in Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 46 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 110 positive cases a year. In 2017, 5 of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Beaufort County.
Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC's interactive map: http://www.scdhec.gov/EAOffices. For more information on rabies visit: www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.