CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), there have been 34 confirmed cases of rabies in Charleston County this year alone. 

Of the 34 cases, there’s been one cat, one fox, three bats, and 29 raccoons that have tested positive for the rabies virus. 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 was a 64 confirmed rabies cases. 

The department added that the reason for the fluctuations can be from changes in land use and changes in wildlife populations among other factors. Which lead them to acknowledge that is why keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations is so important. 

A notion Dr. Lucy Fuller, the Senior Director of Veterinary Care for the Charleston Animal Society, echoed. 

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 contract rabies and becomes ill will die.  

Dr. Lucy Fuller, Senior Director Veterinary Care CAS 

Dr. Fuller said, the vaccine can be given in a 1 to 3 year dose and is safe for cats, dogs, and ferrets. The rabies virus spreads typically from a bite or any contact with the saliva of an infected animal.

DHEC said, in South Carolina, the primary carriers of rabies are raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats.

As for what you should look for in your pet?

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 avoid animals seeming in need as the possibility of exposure to rabies can occur anywhere and anytime. Rather, contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator.