Rabies found in Rock Hill calf

Two Rock Hill men are receiving preventative treatment after being exposed to a calf confirmed to have rabies, state health officials say.

The two men were tending to the calf when they saw it was acting peculiar, said Claire Boatwright, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Tests revealed the calf had rabies, which led health officials Friday to issue a statewide warning to make residents aware of the potential dangers of the virus.

This is the fourth reported case of rabies in a cow in the state since 1989, Boatwright said.

"For a cow to have rabies is extremely unusual," she said. "It could have possibly come in contact with a wild animal."

Rabies can be transmitted by animal bites, scratchings and exposure to the saliva of a rabid animal, said Sue Ferguson, an environmental health manager at DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. The two men had been exposed to the cow's saliva.

DHEC would not release the names of the two men for privacy reasons. Details of their treatment were not available.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 55,000 humans die every year from the rabies virus. The most recent report on rabies epidemiology compiled by the CDC in 2001 shows that raccoons are the most common cause of the rabies virus in South Carolina.

Wild animals such as rodents, bats and foxes accounted for 93 percent of reported cases of rabies nationwide, as of the last study.

"We want people to know that if there is a potential for rabies, to report it right away," Boatwright said. "Pets should be vaccinated regularly and all animal bites should be reported."

This is the fifth confirmed rabid animal in York County this year, according to DHEC. Last year, there were four rabid animals in the county. So far this year, there have been 64 cases of rabid animals in South Carolina.