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Health officials issue warning about rabid CSRA puppy

(Source: Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center)
(Source: Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center)(jarun011 | Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 1:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 2:02 PM EDT
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JOHNSTON, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control wants to hear from anyone who believes they may have come into contact with a rabid puppy from the CSRA.

Contact DHEC’s Aiken or Florence office, if you are not already in communication with the agency.

Since announcing Friday that the tan-and-white pit bull puppy had tested positive for rabies, DHEC has learned it was about 7 weeks old and weighed about 5 pounds.

Anyone who came into contact with the puppy’s saliva may have been exposed to rabies and should seek medical attention.

Animals can shed the rabies virus for up to two weeks before they show symptoms or signs of rabies.

“We are deeply concerned about all persons involved, as rabies is fatal if left untreated after exposure,” said Dr. Gil Potter, DHEC’s Midlands region medical director.

DHEC reported the puppy was born in Edgefield County, near Lanier Road in Johnston.

It and a littermate were taken to Augusta, Ga., from July 14-17.

Staff have learned that both puppies were brought to a gathering in Clearwater around the same time. The littermate is unaccounted for and was allegedly given away during the gathering. The rabid puppy was later taken to a birthday party in Florence.

The agency is attempting to identify the littermate to verify its health status and prevent the potential spread of the rabies virus.

DHEC is having difficulty obtaining contact information from people involved with the gathering in Clearwater.

Anyone who attended the Clearwater gathering or who may have had or is in contact with the littermate puppy should contact their health care provider and DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Aiken office at 803-642-1637 or Florence office at 843-661-4825 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) or after-hours and on holidays at 888-847-0902 (Select Option 2).

“Keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination is the easiest way to protect you and your family from this deadly virus,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC rabies program team leader. “Any mammal has the ability to carry and transmit the disease to humans or pets. So, give wild and stray animals plenty of space.”

In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats, but pets are susceptible to the virus.

“If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it,” McCollister said.

Instead, contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer, wildlife control officer or a wildlife rehabilitator.

This puppy is the first animal in Edgefield County to test positive for rabies in 2021. There have been 46 cases of rabid animals across South Carolina this year.

Contact information for local environmental affairs offices is available at www.scdhec.gov/EAoffices. For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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