Rabies remains a major concern worldwide, killing tens of thousands of people every year. In the United States, it’s not unusual for one to two people to die annually. Among animals, there were nearly 4,500 reported cases of rabies in the U.S. in 2020.
What can YOU do? Vaccinate your animals and keep them away from wildlife that can spread the disease. Rabies is 100% preventable. According to Dr. Charles Rupprecht, former chief of the rabies program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Your local veterinarian plays a key role in controlling rabies.”
World Rabies Day: September 28
World Rabies Day, started in 2007, aims to raise awareness about the public health impact of human and animal rabies. Events to promote rabies awareness are held across the world every September 28. Visit the World Rabies Day website for information and for help in planning a World Rabies Day event.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The virus is secreted in saliva and is usually transmitted to people and animals by a bite from an infected animal. Less commonly, rabies can be transmitted when saliva from a rabid animal comes in contact with an open cut on the skin or the eyes, nose, or mouth of a person or animal. Once the outward signs of the disease appear, rabies is nearly always fatal.
What animals can get rabies?
Only mammals can get rabies; birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians do not. In the United States, most cases of rabies occur in wild animals—mainly skunks, raccoons, bats, coyotes, and foxes. In recent years, cats have become the most common domestic animal infected with rabies. This is because many cat owners do not vaccinate their cats and cats can be exposed to rabid wildlife, either outdoors or when bats get into the house. Rabies also occurs in dogs and cattle in significant numbers and, while not as common, has been diagnosed in horses, goats, sheep, swine and ferrets.
Vaccination programs and control of stray animals have been effective in preventing rabies in most pets. Approved rabies vaccines are available for cats, dogs, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep. Licensed oral vaccines are also being used for mass immunization of wildlife, particularly raccoons.
South Carolina Rabies Law
If you own a dog, cat or ferret, you’re required by South Carolina’s rabies law to keep your animal’s rabies shot up to date. This usually means a once-a-year vaccine, but veterinarians also offer multi-year vaccines for cats and dogs that offer good protection and satisfy the legal requirement.
Your veterinarian or veterinary technician can administer the vaccine, or you can take advantage of the yearly rabies vaccination clinics DHEC sponsors with local veterinarians, usually in the spring.
Some animal rescue groups and veterinarians also offer lower-cost vaccination clinics throughout the year. Find a rabies clinic.