CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), there have been 37 confirmed cases of rabies in Charleston County this year alone.
Of the 37 cases, 31 have been raccoons. Most recently, a rabid raccoon was found near South Boulevard and Durant Avenue on October 14, and another was found near Seaside Plantation Drive and Oak Turn Road on October 13.
In South Carolina, the primary carriers of rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.
While there have been almost three dozen cases so far in 2020, DHEC said cases often fluctuate throughout the decades. In 2015, there were zero cases—and 2005 there were 64 confirmed rabies cases.
The department added that the reason for the fluctuations can be attributable to changes in land use and changes in wildlife populations, among other factors.
DHEC is using this situation to emphasize the importance of keeping pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations.
Dr. Lucy Fuller, the Senior Director of Veterinary Care for the Charleston Animal Society, explained that since the virus is spread through contact with the saliva of an infected animal, it can have widespread and dire consequences:
It’s a virus that can infect any mammal, that includes humans, we’re also mammals and it is over 90% fatal. Almost every animal that contracts rabies and becomes ill will die.Dr. Lucy Fuller, Senior Director Veterinary Care CAS
Dr. Fuller said that the vaccine can be given in a 1 to 3 year dose and is safe for cats, dogs, and ferrets.
Keeping an eye on pets is crucial as well, as warning signs can be subtle:
Anywhere from sort of mild signs to where maybe they are not eating as much or they’re not acting like themselves and then eventually they will succumb to the virus.Dr. Lucy Fuller, Senior Director Veterinary Care CAS
Both DHEC and Dr. Fuller said to be cautious when attempting to help stray or unfamiliar animals, as they could be infected.
Rather, contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer.