South Carolina health officials say four people have been referred to their health care providers for consultation after being potentially exposed to rabies in the southwest area of Pickens County by a young goat that tested positive for the disease.

 Goat kids Public domain image/Rosendahl
Goat kids
Public domain image/Rosendahl

The victims were exposed to rabies while providing general care to the goat. After exhibiting odd behavior and increased salivation, the goat was euthanized on April 27 and submitted to the University of Georgia for testing. Test results confirmed rabies the same day.

South Carolina law requires pet owners to vaccinate dogs, cats and ferrets. The law does not require owners of agricultural animals to vaccinate for rabies and there is no approved vaccine for goats. Rabies vaccines for cows, horses and sheep, however, have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

DHEC strongly recommends that owners of agricultural animals vaccinate (when vaccines are available):

  • Any livestock that have frequent contact with humans
  • Any livestock that are particularly valuable
  • Animals used for raw milk or raw milk product production

Rabies: What should you do if you’re exposed?

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people use caution when pets or livestock exhibit sudden changes in behavior,” said David Vaughan of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). “This is especially true if owners notice unexplainable injuries on their animals, or stray/wild animals mingling with livestock or pets.”

Keeping your animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccination is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets or livestock from this fatal disease.

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“Every year, hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies after being potentially exposed to the rabies virus,” Vaughan said. “Once symptoms of rabies are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition that causes similar signs of illness, such as distemper or lead poisoning. The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.”

The goat is the second animal in Pickens County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 20 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, oneof the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Pickens County.