News Releases

News Releases

DHEC Supports World Rabies Day by Reminding Pet Owners to Keep Animals Vaccinated against the Rabies Virus

Sept. 28, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. World Rabies Day, a global campaign to help prevent the spread of rabies, is supported by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to remind pet owners of the importance of having their pets vaccinated against this fatal disease.

Promoted by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, World Rabies Day is observed annually on September 28. This year’s theme, “Rabies: Facts, Not Fear,” focuses on sharing facts about rabies and not spreading fear about the disease through misinformation and myths.

There have been 73 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year, and the most common animals infected with rabies in the state are raccoons, bats, skunks and cats and dogs.

“Keeping your pets current on their rabies vaccination is a responsibility that comes with owning an animal,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC's Rabies Program Team Leader. “It is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and pets from this fatal disease. Rabies is spread when saliva or neural tissue contacts open wounds or areas such as eyes, nose, or mouth of a person or pet.”

DHEC encourages all pet and livestock owners to make sure their animals are up-to-date on their rabies shot. To help, DHEC’s rabies website highlights low-cost rabies vaccine options around the state. Visit for important rabies awareness information. Free rabies vaccines are offered by:

Additionally, the Hilton Head Humane Association is holding a World Rabies Day free vaccine clinic for cats and dogs from 1-3 p.m. Sept. 28 by appointment. Call 843-645-8500 to make an appointment.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space,” McCollister said. “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." 

In addition, never release a bat that had potential contact with a person, pet, or livestock. These bats should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Once a bat is released, it cannot be tested for rabies. Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands. Bat contact/exposure is defined as:

  • Waking up to find a bat in your room;
  • Finding a bat where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended; and/or
  • A pet or person that has been in direct contact with a bat.

If you have reason to believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come into contact with an animal that has rabies or potentially has rabies, please call your local DHEC Environmental Affairs Office during normal business hours (M-F, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.). Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention. 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 (Select Option 2).

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