Veterinarians across the state will be holding rabies vaccination clinics to help protect pets from contracting the viral disease that affects the central nervous system and kills its victims.
Spread by the bite of infected animals, rabies is a virus that veterinarians are urging the public not to take lightly.
"Rabies is a public health risk. There is no cure for rabies. If an animal gets rabies, human or otherwise, they're going to die. They're not going to survive it,” Dr. James Mitchell of Bamberg Veterinary Clinic said.
Mitchell said he will hold a clinic at his office at 11156 Heritage Highway in Bamberg.
“It’s one of those diseases we still see, especially in wild animals. We don't have that many domesticated animals with it. But it can go from not being such a big deal for a couple of years to being a really, really bad situation in a hurry,” Mitchell said.
“Sometimes your pet gets euthanized because you didn't take the time to get it a rabies vaccine and it got exposed to a rabid animal.”
He added, “A lot of dogs are outside. So they’re coming in contact with wild animals by chasing them, trying to play with them or whatever and get bitten by a rabid animal. It becomes a public health risk when that dog comes back to the house and licks, bites or does something to a human" who can then get it.
State law requires that pet owners vaccinate their dogs, cats and ferrets.
"Rabies vaccination fees may vary by clinic site, but no vet participating in these clinics will charge more than $10 per pet," said David Vaughn, director of DHEC’s Division of Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention and Enforcement.
“Rabies is a threat to pets, livestock, wild animals and humans. Pet owners must stay vigilant and keep their pets’ vaccinations up to date,” Vaughn said.
While not required by law, DHEC strongly recommends that owners vaccinate all horses, any livestock that have frequent contact with humans, any livestock that are particularly valuable, or animals used for raw milk or raw milk products.
DHEC reports that while local veterinarians offer vaccines year-round, the spring clinics help raise awareness about rabies while also providing convenience to pet owners.
The state agency also reports that keeping pets updated on rabies vaccinations is one of the easiest and most effective ways individuals can protect themselves, their families and their pets from rabies.
Mitchell said while he is seeing fewer and fewer people participating in the special vaccination clinics, there are several other opportunities for animals to get vaccinated.
“Number one, people are bringing them in (to a veterinarian office) a lot more often. That's why I'm doing them at the office now. We just go outside and do it and they come in. Instead of handwriting everything, I can just give them a printout from the computer. It works a lot better that way,” Mitchell said.
“Then you've got all these new clinics that are going to your different businesses and towns, setting up for an hour every other weekend to do real cheap shots and make it more affordable for people to come and do that.
“So there's a lot more opportunities for them to get the vaccine rather than go to a rabies clinic and face 100 or 150 people, which I haven't seen one with 100 or 150 people in years. I haven't had that situation for me probably in 15 or 16 years,” he said.
According to DHEC, there were 100 positive rabies cases confirmed in animals across the state in 2018, including 42 raccoons, 16 skunks, 15 cats, 13 bats, nine foxes, two cows, one dog, one goat and one coyote. There was one raccoon that tested positive for rabies in Bamberg County last year. No animals tested positive for rabies in Orangeburg or Calhoun counties in 2018.
Spring clinic dates, times and locations, along with additional information about preventing rabies, can be found on DHEC’s website at www.scdhec.gov/rabies.