Rabies up in Kershaw County

Growth and development in Kershaw County are driving up the number of confirmed cases of rabid animals to its highest level in more than a decade by destroy-ing wild habitats, health and ani-mal control officials say.

In the latest case, a North Carolina man was attacked and scratched by a rabid raccoon July 28 while working under his Lake Wateree vacation home in Camden. He began receiving post-exposure inoculations the next day.

The raccoon was the eighth confirmed rabid animal in the county this year. Only three cases were confirmed in 2006.

Since 1994, the largest number of confirmed rabies cases in a year in Kershaw County was eight in 2003, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Areas with rapid growth and development are seeing more wild animals and might see more animals with rabies, said Adam Myrick, a spokesman for DHEC.

"There's more chance and op-portunities for humans to come in contact with wild animals," he said. "Kershaw County has more residential areas, so there's more probability of rabies cases with humans getting into farmland or what was once the countryside."

If an animal is thought to be rabid, people should call animal control immediately and avoid the animal, said Sharon Jones, director of theWalter Crowe Animal Shelter in Camden.

In Kershaw County, if an ani-mal is confirmed to be rabid, it is euthanized at the Walter Crowe shelter. If a pet, such as a cat or dog, is suspected of having rabies, a DHEC official will quarantine the animal at the shelter to monitor for signs of the disease.

If the animal shows distinct signs of rabies, it is euthanized and tested to see if it actually had the disease.

"In eight years I've been direc-tor, we may have had one cat five or six years ago," Jones said. "We've had raccoons, bats and a few foxes test positive. It's not a widespread problem."

But Jones said she's not sur-prised to see a possible increase in the number of rabies cases reported.

"With houses being built in the woods, animals are being pushed into the neighborhoods and towns," she said. "So there's more attacks and more people are seeing wild animals in their yards."

Neighboring Richland and Lexington counties are not seeing an increase in the number of animals with confirmed cases of rabies. Through July 31, each county reported six cases.

In 2006, Richland County had 13 cases, its largest number since 2002.

Lexington County had six cases of animals testing positive for rabies in 2006.