News Releases

News Releases

Sumter County Fox Potentially Exposes One Person to Rabies

March 20, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that one person has been referred to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to rabies by a fox that tested positive for the disease.

The potential exposure occurred March 17 when the victim was bitten by a fox on their property southwest of Sumter, near Lakewood. The fox was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing March 18 and was confirmed to have rabies March 19.

"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," said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. "However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies." 

It's important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways for residents to protect themselves, their family and pets from this fatal disease.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space," Vaughan 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."

Anyone with reason to believe they or their family members or pets have come into contact with this fox or another animal that potentially has rabies should call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Aiken office at 803-642-1637 during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.). Be sure to immediately wash any part of the 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 during holidays or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number at 888-847-0902.

This fox is the first animal in Sumter County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 34 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, two of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Sumter County.

Contact information for DHEC's local Bureau of Environmental Health Services offices is available at For more information about rabies, visit


Media Relations News Release Rabies Sumter