Raccoon could have exposed 5 people to rabies; how to protect you and your pet

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Health officials say a raccoon could have exposed five people to rabies.

The raccoon was found in Aiken County on June 19 and the potential exposures took place in Edgefield County between June 19 and July 7 while the raccoon was receiving care, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The raccoon was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on July 12 and was confirmed to have rabies on July 15. So, we wanted to know how you can protect your pets from the virus.

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine,” Kim Ward told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk. “That’s the only way you’re going to protect your pets,” she added.

Ward sees a number of animals at the Silver Bluff Animal Clinic. Thankfully none so far with rabies. She says the virus can be transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a healthy mammal. Exposure can occur through a bite, scratch, open wound, or the eyes, nose or mouth. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is almost always fatal.

“Here we typically see what’s called dumb rabies and what that looks like is basically drunk the animal would be stumbling around, would not want to eat, reluctant to drink and maybe vomiting but not so much of the aggressive,” she added.

In South Carolina, the primary carriers of rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt, appropriate medical care.

“They will start a post-exposer series of shots which is not what you use to hear about ‘oh there are 20 shots in the stomach.’ It’s not that anymore but you will have to go through a series of shots,” Ward said. If you’re bitten, 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.

With an increase in rabies numbers across the state of South Carolina. We’re told that the majority of those numbers are from wild animals. “So it’s not so much the cats, dogs, and ferrets that we are worried about, it is wildlife and it’s being spread among each other. The dogs and cats that wind up interacting with them that are not vaccinated, of course, are at risk. People do find wildlife animals and they are very cute and all I can say is do not handle them,” she stated.

If you suspect pet or maybe someone received a bite from a rabid animal. Contact the DHEC as well as seek emergency services. “Cats dogs and ferrets in this state must be up to date on rabies vaccine. There is a hefty fine if they are not and they bite someone,” Ward shared.

Low-cost rabies vaccinations are provided several times throughout the year from several organizations in our area to help protect fido from any unwanted illnesses.

Meanwhile, If you believe that you, family members or pets came in contact with the raccoon found in Aiken County or another animal that potentially has rabies, call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Aiken Office at 803-642-1637 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday) after hours, call 888-847-0902.

This raccoon is the fifth animal in Aiken County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 78 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, four of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Aiken County.

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