Category Archives: South Carolina

South Carolina | Fox exposes person to rabies in Pickens County

One person has been referred to a health care provider for preventive treatment after being exposed to rabies in the Liberty area of Pickens County by a fox that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals transmit the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Craig said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.

“State law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against rabies. It is extremely important to the health of your pet and you to ensure vaccination status is up-to-date,” she said.

There were 124 confirmed cases of rabies in animals during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 58 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the third to test positive in 2014 from Pickens County. There was one in that county in 2013.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC environmental health services office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

SC | DHEC and CDC continue to investigate RMC bat sightings

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today that patients of the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, SC, who stayed overnight in the hospital’s east wing between January 1 and February 16, 2014, are encouraged to contact DHEC to assess their health risk for possible exposure to bats, which can sometimes transmit rabies to people.

DHEC is working with the Regional Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate reports of recent bat sightings or contact with bats. To date, the joint investigation has not identified any reports of bites from bats by Regional Medical Center patients or employees.

“Bats can transmit rabies to people through bites or the introduction of saliva into open wounds,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. “Bats have small teeth that can cause bites that may go unnoticed. For this reason, it’s important to identify a person that potentially came in direct contact with a bat to assess their health risk for rabies exposure.”

DHEC and CDC are currently notifying more than 800 patients and 300 hospital staff to encourage individuals who had direct, physical contact with a bat or who awakened to find a bat in a room to call DHEC at 1-800-868-0404 to assess their potential risk for rabies exposure and provide referrals for further medical evaluation, if needed.

The Regional Medical Center has established a clinic at the hospital to serve any patients or staff who are referred for follow-up medical evaluation and possible preventive rabies treatment.

“Our priority is to ensure that patients who received care at RMC are safe,” said Marilyn Tremblay, R.N. and chief information officer for the Regional Medical Center. “We are committed to working with DHEC and CDC to resolve this situation and prevent such events from happening in the future. RMC will offer medical evaluation and preventive rabies treatment regardless of a patient’s ability to pay for services.”

RMC has also set up a hotline number for patients and employees who have questions about the ongoing bat investigation. The hospital hotline number is 803-395-3837.

For more information about bats and rabies, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats.

South Carolina | Puppy exposes one person and potentially 9 others to rabies in York County

Ten people have been recommended to contact their health care provider for post-exposure treatment after one person was bitten and nine others were potentially exposed to rabies by a puppy that tested positive for the disease in the Rock Hill area of York County, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease. ”Pets can be vaccinated as early as 12 weeks old,” she said.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

There were 123 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 11 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first to test positive in 2014 from York County.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/behs/regions.htm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

South Carolina | DHEC, Berkeley County School District investigate TB case

Late Monday afternoon, DHEC was informed by a medical facility of a possible case of tuberculosis infection involving a student at Stratford High School, and took immediate action to thoroughly assess and contain the situation. DHEC’s standard, thorough protocol went into effect:

  • DHEC medical staff met with the patient Tuesday morning for an extensive Q&A to determine how and where any other people might have been exposed.
  • The patient is in isolation to receive round-the-clock care and prevent spread of the infection.
  • DHEC received a sample from the patient’s doctors on Wednesday morning and confirmed the tuberculosis infection within just a few hours.
  • Because the patient is a student, DHEC is working closely with school officials to determine where others could potentially have been exposed, such as the student’s bus and classrooms.
  • This helps DHEC determine who else should be tested as soon as possible.
  • The school district informed parents Wednesday afternoon through its reverse 911 system of the situation and directed them to the district and DHEC websites for more information.
  • Also on Wednesday, letters went home from school to the pool of students most likely to have come in contact with the patient. That letter includes a release form to give DHEC permission to test their child.
  • The patient’s family and close contacts are being tested Thursday, and students will be scheduled for testing Thursday and Friday.
  • Lab results, available within 72 hours of testing, will determine the need for other action.

DHEC Director Catherine Templeton offered praise for the school district’s response: “This is how our schools should respond when notified of a health threat. We applaud Superintendent Thompson and the school board for their wisdom to notify the parents as soon as the lab confirmed the case.”

South Carolina | Cat found in Williamsburg County exposes four adults to rabies

Four adults have been recommended for post-exposure treatment after being exposed to rabies by a cat that tested positive for the disease after being found in the Hemingway area of Williamsburg County, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

There were 123 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 2 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first to test positive in 2014 from Williamsburg County.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/behs/regions.htm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

South Carolina | State records first flu-related death of the season

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has been notified of the state’s first flu-associated death of the season, the agency announced last week.

“Tragically, a woman from Dorchester County has become our first lab-confirmed, influenza-associated death of the season,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. “We are in the early stages of our state’s flu season. It is important to get vaccinated now. The vaccine takes about two weeks to build up your body’s protection against the virus, and vaccination is – by far – the best way to prevent the spread of the flu.

“Our most recent efforts to track the spread of influenza in the state show that influenza has been active early in the season, although activity is localized,” Dr. Bell said. “Flu activity typically peaks in February in South Carolina, so we have to prepare for several months of the disease circulating in our communities. Therefore, we strongly encourage vaccination for all persons six months and older to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly – especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.

Dr. Bell added that other flu prevention guidelines include:

  • Staying away from people who are sick.
  • Staying home from work, school and errands if you are sick. By doing so, you will help keep others from getting sick, too.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow.
  • Washing your hands often and thoroughly.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

“Other good habits include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating good food to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year,” she said.

Find additional information about preventing the flu at www.scdhec.gov/flu.

South Carolina | People in Oconee and Fairfield Counties exposed to rabies

Two Fairfield County adults are undergoing post-exposure treatments after being potentially exposed to rabies in the Winnsboro area of the county by a dog that tested positive for the disease, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.

An Oconee County woman was exposed to rabies in the Westminster area of the county and is undergoing post exposure treatments after being bitten by a skunk that tested positive for the disease.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease. ”This is the second dog from S.C. with rabies in less than a month, which is why vaccination is so important,” she said. ”Three cats have also been diagnosed with rabies this year.”

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

There were 137 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2012 in South Carolina. There have been 102 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. These animals are each the second to test positive from Oconee and Fairfield Counties.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/behs/regions.htm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

South Carolina | Bat potentially exposes three Charleston adults to rabies

Three adults from Charleston have been recommended for post-exposure treatments after being potentially exposed to rabies by a bat that tested positive for the disease, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

”Bats are a known carrier of rabies,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. ”Bats have very small, sharp teeth that might feel like a mosquito bite, so people may not realized they have been bitten.”

DHEC recommends that anyone who is exposed to rabies from a possible bite from a bat, safely capture the bat and contact DHEC. Instructions for capturing a bat can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/capture.html.

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention. It is always very important to report the incident to DHEC.”

There were 137 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2012 in South Carolina. There have been 95 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first bat and the fourth animal to test positive this year from Charleston County.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/behs/regions.htm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

South Carolina | DHEC update on impact of Federal shutdown

On Monday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) received additional guidance about the federal government shutdown as it relates to key programs that impact the state.

DHEC was informed that the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program is considered “non-essential” under the shutdown and will not receive federal funding. WIC clients should continue using their vouchers as usual and WIC-approved vendors should continue to honor those vouchers.

DHEC has identified some reserve funding to continue processing WIC vouchers at this time, but services will be interrupted and reimbursements will be discontinued on October 15, 2013 unless the USDA releases funds.

The agency is monitoring the WIC program’s available funding and will provide the public with updates as new information becomes available.

South Carolina | Puppy exposes four Laurens County people to rabies

Two adults and two children in the Ware Shoals area of Laurens County are undergoing post-exposure treatments after being potentially exposed to rabies by a puppy that tested positive for the disease, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease. Pets can receive vaccinations as early as 12-weeks-old. “World Rabies Day is Sept. 28, so now is a good time to remind South Carolinians to vaccinate their pets,” she said. ”This unvaccinated puppy was bitten on the nose by a suspect rabid skunk and died from rabies ten days later.”

“If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention. It is always very important to report the incident to DHEC.”

There were 137 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2012 in South Carolina. There have been 92 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first domestic pet and the sixth animal to test positive this year from Laurens County.

World Rabies Day aims to promote rabies prevention and control through awareness of the serious impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent, and how to eliminate the main global sources of the disease. Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt and appropriate medical care. For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/worldrabiesday/.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rabies webpage can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.