Rabid cow exposed three people and over 40 animals to deadly virus, SC officials say

Three people and more than 40 animals were recently exposed to a rabid cow found in South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said Wednesday.

The calf was sent to the University of Georgia’s lab for testing on Saturday, and was confirmed to have rabies two days later, officials said in a news release.

The animal was discovered near Red Feather Road and Pine Grove Road in Seneca, according to the release. That’s in Oconee County, not far from Lake Hartwell and the Savannah River.

The people were told to seek medical care, health officials said. Further information on their conditions was not available.

In addition to the people, 22 cows and 21 calves in the same pasture were potentially exposed to the deadly virus, according to the release. DHEC said the state of South Carolina veterinarian has been consulted, but information about the fate of the other animals was not available.

There was no word if all of the cows and calves are from the same farm.

South Carolina DHEC confirmed a cow tested positive for rabies.
South Carolina DHEC confirmed a cow tested positive for rabies.

The calf was not the only rabid animal recently found in South Carolina.

A raccoon found near Farmfield Road and New Bridge Road in Aiken also tested positive for rabies, according to the release. That’s in an area where there are several horse farms and stables.

While no horses or people are currently known to have been exposed to the rabid raccoon two dogs were potentially exposed, DHEC said. The dogs will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina Rabies Control Act.

The raccoon was sent to DHEC’s lab for testing on Monday, and was confirmed to have rabies a day later, officials said in a news release.

DHEC says if you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with either of the rabid animals, or another animal that potentially has rabies, call the agency’s Environmental Affairs Anderson office at (864) 260-5585 or Aiken Office at (803) 642-1637 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at 888-847-0902 (Select Option 2).

Additionally, if you think you’ve been exposed to a rabid animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water, officials said.

Health officials said an exposure is direct contact — possibly through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth — from a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva, body fluids, or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected or possibly infected animal.

Getting pets vaccinated for rabies is the best way to protect against the deadly virus, DHEC said.

South Carolina law requires all dogs, cats, and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies and re-vaccinated to provide continuous protection, DHEC said.

Livestock are susceptible to rabies and all livestock with USDA approved rabies vaccinations should be vaccinated, according to the release. Cattle and horses, however, are the most frequently reported infected livestock species.

Species for which licensed vaccines are not available (goat and swine), that have frequent contact with humans, or are considered valuable, should also be vaccinated, DHEC said.

“Keeping your pets and livestock current on their rabies vaccination is a responsibility that comes with owning an animal,” DHEC’s Rabies Program Team Leader Terri McCollister said in the release. “It is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, your pets, and your livestock from this fatal disease. That is an investment worth making to provide yourself some peace of mind.”

In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats, according to the release.

Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year, DHEC said.

There have been 79 cases of rabid animals statewide this year, compared to 101 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina in 2021, according to the release.