PICKENS COUNTY — One person was referred to their health care provider for consultation after being potentially exposed to rabies in an area of Pickens County between Six Mile and Pickens by a skunk that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported Tuesday.
The individual was potentially exposed to rabies while handling the skunk’s carcass with bare hands on Oct. 28. The skunk tested positive for rabies on Oct. 30.
“The threat of rabies is still present after an animal is deceased,” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). “Please keep this in mind and be extremely cautious if you find yourself in a situation where you have the potential to be exposed to the saliva or neural tissue (for example: brain or spinal cord) from an animal — dead or alive. Never handle a wild or stray animal, dead or alive, with your bare hands.”
According to Craig, once symptoms of rabies are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning. The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.
Animal decapitation for testing, however, should only be performed by a professional. Professionals are trained to utilize the proper personal protective equipment, such as face shields and gloves.
“About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most, but not all, exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal,” Craig said. “The virus is known to be transmitted from mammal to mammal through exposure to saliva or neural tissue. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. Please play it safe and give animals, particularly wild and stray animals, their space.”
The best way to protect your pet and your family is to keep your pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.
During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. Statewide this year, there have been 111 laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in animals. The skunk from Pickens County is the 10th animal from that county to test positive in 2015. There were eight that tested positive in Pickens County last year.