'Pet' Rabid Raccoon Confirmed in York County; One Person Exposed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 6, 2022
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a raccoon kept as a pet for 11 years near Mitchell Road and Apple Blossom Road in York, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and advised by a physician consultant with DHEC t to seek rabies prophylactic treatment at their local emergency room.
DHEC received the report about this animal bite incident on June 2, 2022, as required by the state Rabies Control Act. The raccoon was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on June 3, 2022, after being found deceased in its enclosure and was confirmed to have rabies on June 4, 2022.
“Situations involving exposures to people and pets from wild animals is extremely concerning. It is not advisable to keep a raccoon, or other wild animal, as a pet. Raccoons are the most common animal to test positive for rabies in South Carolina and play a major role in the transmission of rabies in the state," said Terri McCollister, DHEC's Rabies Program Team Leader.
Signs of rabies in raccoons can't be reliably interpreted and, unlike dogs and cats, there is no established timeframe for monitoring raccoons that bite a person to rule out the possibility of rabies in that animal. The York County raccoon did not show any indication it was suffering from rabies until its sudden death.
"It’s also important to note, there are no injectable rabies vaccines approved for use in wildlife and or hybrid animal species. For this reason, DHEC does not recognize a rabies vaccine administered to a wild or hybrid animal kept as a 'pet,'" McCollister said. "As there are no defined quarantine periods for wild animals, the only way to determine if a person was exposed to rabies from such an animal is to test it. Our staff understand the sensitivity involved with a 'pet;' however, given the limitations with the lack of accepted quarantine periods or vaccinations for wild animals, our staff must take necessary measures to prevent human rabies, which is fatal if left untreated after exposure. With all potential exposures, our staff attempt to educate and assist the victim.”
People exposed to a wild animal should immediately consult a healthcare provider and reach out to DHEC for guidance.
“Any mammal can get rabies. In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats, but pet dogs and cats are also susceptible to the virus if not kept up to date on rabies vaccinations," said Dr. Rachel Radcliffe, DHEC's Division of Acute Disease and Epidemiology Public Health Veterinarian. "Therefore, give wild and stray animals plenty of space. If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it. Contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer, wildlife control officer, or a wildlife rehabilitator."
If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with this raccoon or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Rock Hill office at (803) 909-7377 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).
This raccoon is the third animal in York County to test positive for rabies in 2022. There have been 30 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 rabies-positive animal cases a year. In 2021, one of the 101 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in York County.
Contact information for local Environmental Affairs offices is available at www.scdhec.gov/EAoffices. For more information on rabies visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.