Marlboro County raccoon potentially exposes one person to rabies

May 4, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported Thursday that one person has been referred to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to rabies in the Bennettsville area of Marlboro County by a raccoon that tested positive for the disease.

On Friday, the victim was potentially exposed to rabies through a scratch from the raccoon. The raccoon was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory Monday for testing and was confirmed to have rabies on Tuesday.

“Rabies is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body; usually this occurs through a bite, or contact with an open wound, or entry through areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth,” said David Vaughan, the director of the DHEC Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention and Enforcement Division.

“If you are examining or cleaning any wounds on your pet, protect your hands by wearing gloves or using another type of barrier. Consult your veterinarian if your pet returns home with a wound of unknown origin. Additionally, to reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space. If you see an animal in need, avoid handling it and contact someone trained in handling the animal, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator.”

The department would like to remind pet owners that keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination 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 might have been exposed to an animal with rabies, 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 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday).

To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, call the DHEC after-hours service number at 888-847-0902.

This raccoon is the first animal in Marlboro County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 23 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, none of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Marlboro County.

Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC’s interactive map: scdhec.gov/EAOffices.

For more information on rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.