Kershaw County residents are on the alert after a woman and two of her children were exposed to rabies by a kitten they found.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) said the woman and her children were placed under the care of a physician after being exposed to a kitten that tested positive for rabies.
“The incident began June 16 in a rural part of the county north of Camden when a woman found a kitten under her vehicle,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health. “She and two of her children were scratched while handling the kitten.”
Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the woman and the two children are undergoing the preventive inoculations.
According to Ferguson, anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain.
“Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” Ferguson said. “About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.
“Therefore, to protect both the pets and their owners, we strongly encourage residents to make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.
“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” she said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”
This is the third confirmed rabid animal in Kershaw County in 2011. Last year, there were two rabid animals confirmed in the county, both were raccoons. In 2010, there were 106 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 44 confirmed cases in animals in the state.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s Web page at: www.scdhec.gov, click on the A-Z list, select “R,” then click on rabies or contact DHEC’s Kershaw County Environmental Health Office at (803) 425-6051. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web page about rabies can be found at: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.