OCONEE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Four people have been exposed to rabies in the Seneca area of Oconee County by a puppy that tested positive for the virus, according to DHEC officials.
The puppy was reportedly attacked by a skunk several weeks ago and received veterinary care for injuries.
The puppy was too young to have been vaccinated against rabies at the time of the incident and died, DHEC officials reported.
Lab results confirmed rabies on January 14. The skunk was a wild animal and was not available for testing.
The four individuals, including family members, have been referred to health care providers for post exposure consultation.
"Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC-sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring, and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS).
"About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal, said Craig. "Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."
"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch, or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," Craig said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. There have been eight confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first animal to test positive in 2015 from Oconee County, DHEC officials said. There were two animals that tested positive in Oconee County in 2014.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office, at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/.
CDC's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.