Rabid Raccoon Confirmed in Beaufort County; Five People Exposed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sept. 19, 2023
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a raccoon found near Old Mill Crossing and Stepping Stone Way in Bluffton, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. Five people were exposed and have been referred to their health care providers.
The raccoon was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on September 15, 2023, and was confirmed to have rabies on September 16, 2023. If you believe 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 Public Health Beaufort office at (843) 525-7603 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).
“Keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination is the easiest way to protect you and your family from this deadly virus,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program director. “Any mammal has the ability to carry and transmit the disease to people or pets. Therefore, give wild and stray animals plenty of space.”
In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but pets are just as susceptible to the virus. 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. An exposure is defined as direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal.
This raccoon is the first animal in Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2023. There have been 63 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2022, none of the 83 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Beaufort County.