DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Health officials say 18 people may have been exposed to rabies by a puppy that tested positive for the disease in Dorchester County.
Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control say those people have been referred to their health care providers.
According to a report, the potential exposures happened between Aug. 22 and Sept. 6 when the victims were either bitten, scratched, or exposed while having contact with the animal.
DHEC officials say the puppy was described as a small black and brown Shephard mix, and was rescued near Interstate 95 close to Mount Zion Road and Bruce Road in Saint George. The report states that the puppy was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on Sept. 7 and was confirmed to have rabies on Sept 8.
DHEC officials say if you have reason to believe that you, your family members, or your pets have come into contact with this puppy, or another animal that potentially has rabies, to contact DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Charleston office at (843) 953-0150 during normal business hours (M-F, 8:30-5:00).
According to DHEC, the puppy is the third animal in Dorchester County to test positive for rabies in 2019.
There have been 102 cases of rabid animals statewide this year.
According to a report, since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, none of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Dorchester County.
“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,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division.
“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space. 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,” said Vaughan.
DHEC said it is also important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets from this fatal disease.
“Be sure to 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,” DHEC said."To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number (888) 847-0902."