Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) are warning residents in Aiken and Edgefield counties about a rabid raccoon that may have already infected five people.
According to a news release from the agency, five residents of Edgefield county were “referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a raccoon that tested positive for the disease.”
From the agency …
The raccoon was found in Aiken County on June 19 and the potential exposures occurred in Edgefield County between June 19 and July 7 while the raccoon was receiving care. The raccoon was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on July 12 and was confirmed to have rabies on July 15.
The rabid raccoon is the fifth animal in Aiken County to test positive for the disease so far this year. Through the first six-and-a-half months of the year, there have been 78 cases of rabid animals reported in the Palmetto State. Since 2013, the state has averaged approximately 108 positive cases per year.
SCDHEC official David Vaughan noted that 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, however, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies.”
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Vaughan warned residents against approaching wild animals or strays. He also reminded them to “keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the fatal disease.”
Anyone in Aiken or Edgefield counties who believes that they, their family members or their pets may have come into contact with this raccoon or another animal that potentially has rabies are urged to call SCDHEC’s environmental affairs office in Aiken at 803-642-1637 between 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, anyone who believes they may have been bitten by a potentially rabid animal is urged to wash any part of their body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue with soap and water, and seek medical attention.
Those wishing to report a bite or possible rabies exposure on holidays or times outside of normal business hours are urged to call the SCDHEC after-hours service number at 888-847-0902.
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