BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -
Authorities say two people in Berkeley County may have been potentially exposed to rabies by a fox.
DHEC officials say the exposure happened on July 18 in the Pineville area.
"The fox was submitted for testing on July 20 and tested positive for rabies on July 21," DHEC officials said.
A press release states that the fox was the first animal in Berkeley County to test positive for rabies this year.
There were no cases in the county in 2017.
In addition, five other people in the state may have also been exposed to rabies.
Authorities say there were three cases in Sumter County and two from Aiken.
DHEC released the following information on the cases:
The Sumter County exposure occurred on July 17 in the City of Sumter when a stray cat scratched three people. The cat was submitted for testing after the exposure on July 18 and tested positive for rabies on July 19.
The Berkeley County exposure occurred on July 18 in the Pineville area. The fox was submitted for testing on July 20 and tested positive for rabies on July 21.
The Aiken County exposure occurred on July 20 in the North Augusta area when a fox attacked two people. The fox was submitted for testing on July 20 and tested positive for rabies on July 21.
"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.
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.
If you think you may have been exposed to an animal possibly infected with rabies through a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or neural tissue, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to your local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). 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.
There have been 51 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide for 2018. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 110 positive cases a year.
The cat was the second animal in Sumter County to test positive for rabies this year. There were no cases in Sumter in 2017.
The Berkeley County fox was the first animal in Berkeley County to test positive for rabies this year. There were no cases in Berkeley in 2017.
The Aiken County fox was the second animal in Aiken County to test positive for rabies this year. In 2017, 2 of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Aiken County.
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