At least 18 people potentially exposed to rabies by Dorchester County puppy


Third case in Dorchester County so far this year

The Department of Health and Environmental Control referred 18 people to their doctors after they were potentially exposed to a puppy that tested positive for rabies. This is the third animal to test positive for rabies in Dorchester County so far this year.

The potential exposures happened between Thurs. Aug. 22 and Fri. Sept. 6, when victims were bitten, scratched, or otherwise in contact with the puppy. The puppy, a black and brown Shephard mix, was rescued near I-95 in Saint George, about 36 minutes northwest of Summerville. The puppy was submitted for testing on Sept. 7 and unfortunately, confirmed to have rabies the next day.

In 2019, there have been 102 cases of rabid animals statewide. Since 2013, S.C. has averaged 108 cases of rabies a year.

According to DHEC, the primary carriers of rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. The first symptoms of rabies are flu-like, with general weakness, discomfort, fever, and headache. More advanced symptoms include aggression, foaming at the mouth, and abnormal behavior. In animals, abnormal behavior includes wild animals that appear friendly or tame or nocturnal animals that are active during the day.

“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 in a press release.

“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.”

If you believe you, a loved one, or pet came in contact with this puppy or another potentially rabid animal, wash any part of the body that came in contact with the saliva or neural tissue with soap and water, seek medical attention, and call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Charleston office (843) 953-0150 during normal business hours, or (888) 847-0902 after hours. For more information about rabies, visit scdhec.gov.

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