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Three rabies cases reported in Camden

Posted: July 29, 2014 5:52 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Three Kershaw County residents are undergoing treatment for rabies after contracting the disease from the same stray cat. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental control (DHEC) reported the cat exposed the three people during separate incidents on July 21 and 22 in Camden before being captured. Lab tests confirmed the cat as rabid on July 23.

DHEC media spokesman Jim Beasley said Kershaw County Animal Control reported the three cases. Kershaw County Emergency Services Director Gene Faulkenberry, who oversees animal control, said the feral cat was around a horse barn and its erratic behavior raised the suspicion it was rabid. He said DHEC policy is to capture and test potentially rabid animals.

“One of the homeowners called it into animal control. The way the cat was acting, we had suspicions,” Faulkenberry said. “We were told it also attacked two horses. We were just following DHEC protocol.”

Sandra Craig, of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services said in a press release that rabies is a threat to humans, pets and wild animals. She said all pet owners should have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated regularly -- as required by state law.

“It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family and you that pet vaccinations are kept up-to-date,” Craig said.

She said keeping vaccinations current could well save your pet’s life.

“Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be either euthanized or quarantined,” Craig said. “Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics.”

Craig also said the rabies virus is most often carried and passed on by certain breeds of wild animals.

“Contact with wild animals, particularly raccoons, foxes, bats and skunks, is the primary way that people, domestic animals and livestock are exposed to rabies,” she said. “This time of year, we spend more time outdoors and have a greater chance of coming in contact with wild or stray animals. The same is true for our pets, which stand the risk of being bitten or scratched by an infected animal. Pet owners should check their pets for bites and scratches if pets have been in contact with stray or wild animals. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild, and to keep in mind that mammals can transmit rabies even if they don’t appear sick.”

Finally, Craig offered advice on what to do if exposure to rabies is suspected.

“If you are bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal or get the animal’s saliva in a wound, wash the area immediately with plenty of soap and water,” she said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

Each year nearly 275 people in South Carolina are recommended to undergo preventive treatment after being bitten by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. There were 124 confirmed cases of rabies in animals during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 71 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. The incident in Kershaw County is the third case for this county in 2014; there were five cases of rabies in 2013.

In addition to the cat in Kershaw County, DHEC reported that an unvaccinated pet dog in Ware Shoals in Greenwood County exposed six people to rabies on July 21. The dog also tested positive for the disease on July 23. DHEC reports there have been 11 positive cases of rabies so far this month in the state, including one case involving an unvaccinated dog and two cases involving unvaccinated cats.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at


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