Logically, we know better than to handle wild animals. But many of us, especially children, might find it hard to resist taking a closer look at a cute baby animal.
And in doing so, we would risk getting rabies.
In May, eight York County people were treated for rabies after they handled, fed and allowed a pair of baby foxes they were caring for to lick their faces. One fox later was found to be rabid.
In another instance, a 10-year-old Clover girl is being treated for rabies after a fox chased her and scratched her leg with its teeth. In that case, the likelihood of rabies was high because of the animal's atypical behavior.
Officials with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control advise against any contact with wild animals, even if they appear to be sick, wounded or orphaned. Instead, leave them alone for 24 hours, and if they are still there the next day, call animal control.
Another warning sign is a sighting of a nocturnal animal during the day. The fact that they are visible during daylight hours is an indication something is amiss and the animal might be rabid.
It seems obvious, but experts warn that a wild animal that allows humans to pet it is dangerous. That is one to warn the kids about.
Summer is the peak season for exposure to rabid animals. People are spending more time outdoors, and animals are likely to be wandering. Rabies often induces thirst, so animals may be looking for water.
York County traditionally has one of the highest rates of rabies cases in the state. So far this year, 13 people in the county have undergone treatment for rabies prevention.
That is the result, in part, of development encroaching on natural habitat. Driving animals from their habitat not only increases the odds of people coming into contact with animals, it also makes it more likely that healthy animals will run across rabid animals.
Although any mammal can contract and transmit rabies, the disease is particularly prevalent among foxes, skunks, raccoons and bats. Fortunately, domestic pets account for only about 10 percent of rabies cases, largely because of the success of vaccination programs.
Treatment for rabies begins with an injection of antibodies directly into the wound to boost immunity against the virus. That is followed by a serious of five vaccinations over four weeks.
That may sound painful, but rabies always are fatal. After contact with a rabid animal or one suspected of being rabid, shots are the only sensible alternative.
Finally, though, the best way to avoid rabies is common sense. Give any unfamiliar animals a wide berth.
Potential for exposure to rabid animals increases during the summer months.
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