COLUMBIA - Aiken County residents should vaccinate their pets and avoid wild animals to protect themselves and their pets from rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.
"State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies, and we strongly encourage residents to avoid contact with stray animals and make sure their own pets have been vaccinated to protect both the pets and their owners," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health.
"Veterinarians will conduct special reduced-cost rabies clinics throughout Aiken County over the next five weekends to vaccinate pet cats and dogs against the fatal disease," Ferguson said. "Vaccinations will cost $3 each at the clinics."
Ferguson said the unvaccinated pet of a North Augusta family was recently euthanized because the pet fought with a raccoon that tested positive for rabies.
"Be wary of tame animals 'acting wild' and wild animals 'acting tame' and if you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal or domestic pet, immediately wash the wound with plenty of soap and water," Ferguson said. "DHEC advises the public to be sure to get immediate medical attention for any possible exposure to the saliva of a rabid animal and to be sure to report the incident to DHEC."
According to Ferguson, rabies is fatal to humans and animals. So, anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate preventive measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain.
"About 400 South Carolinians have to undergo the treatments every year after being bitten by a rabid or suspected rabid animal," Ferguson said.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's Web page at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact DHEC's Aiken County Environmental Health Office at (803) 642-1637. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web page about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.