Veterinarians around the state encouraged to offer low-cost rabies vaccination clinics; join DHEC in promoting rabies awarenessFebruary 23, 2022
“Keeping your pets and livestock current on their rabies vaccination is a responsibility that comes with owning an animal. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, pets, and livestock from this fatal disease,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC’s Rabies Program Team Leader. “Public health and safety are our primary focus, and that is why we’re dedicated to teaming up with veterinary partners to bring rabies awareness to our communities.”
In 2021, there were 101 positive cases of rabies confirmed in animals in South Carolina, including 30 raccoons, 24 skunks, 21 bats, 14 foxes, 7 cats, 3 dogs, one otter, and one cow. South Carolina averages approximately 148 confirmed rabid animals each year. Current and historic rabies case statistics by county are available on DHEC’s Rabies by the Numbers map.
While the number of rabies-related human deaths has declined significantly over the past several decades because of rabies vaccinations and awareness, human fatalities do still occur.
“The CDC reported five human-related rabies deaths nationwide in 2021. These unfortunate deaths are why we work so hard to bring rabies awareness to those who reside in and visit our state,” McCollister said. “It goes without saying that the participating veterinarians who choose to host these widely promoted low-cost clinics offer an invaluable and lifesaving service.”
South Carolina law requires all dogs, cats, and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies and revaccinated at a frequency that provides continuous protection from rabies using a vaccine approved by DHEC and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While state law doesn’t require livestock to be vaccinated, they are susceptible to rabies, and it’s strongly recommended they receive their vaccines. Cattle and horses are the most frequently reported rabies-infected livestock; however, goats, swine, and any livestock that have frequent contact with humans or are considered valuable should also be vaccinated.
“We greatly appreciate all of the veterinary offices, shelters, and rescues who host free or low-cost clinics each spring, and we highly encourage others to hold similar events and to contact their local DHEC rabies program with the details so we can offer further promotion,” McCollister said. “We’re happy to support all free or low-cost rabies events by sharing the details on DHEC’s social media platforms and sending regional news releases. Promoting these clinics are part of our statewide efforts to educate about the risks of rabies and to remind pet owners to do their part.”
All veterinary offices, animal shelters, and animal rescues hosting free or low-cost rabies events are urged to contact their local rabies prevention program at scdhec.gov/EAoffices. To find a free or low-cost rabies clinic near you, visit scdhec.gov/rabies.
As a reminder, any mammal can transmit rabies to people or pets. The key to prevention is staying away from wild and stray animals and keeping pets current on their rabies vaccinations. If an unfamiliar or wild animal is in need, avoid touching it, and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as a local animal control officer, wildlife control officer, or a wildlife rehabilitator. All animal bites and potential exposures to a rabid animal should be reported to DHEC. In addition, anyone with a potential rabies exposure should seek immediate medical attention. An exposure is direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal.
For more information on rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies or cdc.gov/rabies.