UPSTATE — The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported three people have been potentially exposed to rabies in Oconee County by a cow that tested positive for the disease.
According to DHEC, the exposures occurred while the victims were providing “general care to the cow.” After it was reported that the cow was acting sick, the cow was submitted to the University of Georgia for testing.
On Aug. 27, test results confirmed the cow had rabies, officials said.
South Carolina law requires pet owners to vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets but the law does not require owners of agricultural animals to vaccinate for rabies. Rabies vaccines for cows, horses and sheep are available and have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — which may not be such a bad idea.
In early May this year, a goat potentially exposed four people to rabies in Pickens County.
To that end, DHEC “strongly recommends” that owners of agricultural animals vaccinate (when vaccines are available) any livestock that have frequent contact with humans or are used in exhibitions, any livestock that are particularly valuable and animals used for production of raw milk for human consumption.
“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people use caution when pets or livestock exhibit sudden changes in behavior,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC’s On-site Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “This is especially true if owners notice unexplained injuries on their animals or stray/wild animals mingling with livestock or pets.”
Keeping your animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccination is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets or livestock from this fatal disease.
“Every year, hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies after being potentially exposed to the rabies virus,” Vaughan said. “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.”
The cow is the third animal in Oconee County to test positive for rabies in 2018, officials said.
There have been 66 confirmed animal cases of rabies statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 110 positive cases a year.
In 2017, 5 of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Oconee County.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.