The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is asking people in Columbia to be cautious and avoid wild animals after two separate reports of attacks by foxes in southeast Columbia. Officials suspect that rabies may be involved.
DHEC’s Sue Ferguson says nearly 400 South Carolinians have to undergo treatment for rabies every year. In 2011, there were 107 confirmed cases of rabies in the state.
While wild animals are the most common carriers of the disease, house pets also catch rabies. State law requires pets to be vaccinated regularly against rabies. Law also requires all vaccinated pets to wear tags with the most current vaccination information.
Owners should make sure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date. Owners who don’t take the proper precautions risk the health of a beloved pet as well as the health of their neighbors, friends and family.
If a pet is exposed to rabies or suspected of being rabid, owners must take additional steps to ensure the disease is contained. Owners can be held personally responsible under state law for failing to take proper steps and for any harm a rabid pet might cause. Quarantine, revaccination or other procedures may be needed if a house pet is exposed to rabies.
All animals acting suspiciously should be reported to the DHEC.
If you are bitten by an animal, experts recommend immediately washing the area with lots of soap and water. You should seek immediate medical attention and report the incident to the DHEC.