COLUMBIA, SC- A cow in Oconee County, South Carolina tested positive for rabies on Aug. 27.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), at least three people providing care to the animal were potentially exposed to the disease and advised to consult with health care providers.

After appearing sick, the cow was sent to the Univ. of Georgia, where it tested positive for the disease. Similar to tests to confirm bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the only method for rabies testing is by sampling tissue from the dead animal’s brain. 

“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,” said David Vaughan, director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “The only way to determine if the animal has rabies is to have the brain tested in a laboratory.”

Under South Carolina state law, animals are not required to receive rabies vaccinations, however a US Dept. of Agriculture-approved vaccine for rabies prevention is recommended by animal health officials for livestock used for milk production or the production of meat for human consumption.

“We recommend that people use caution when pets or livestock exhibit sudden changes in behavior," said Vaughan. "This is especially true if owners notice unexplained injuries on their animals or stray/wild animals mingling with livestock or pets.”

According to the DHEC of South Carolina, this is the third animal in Oconee County to test positive for rabies in 2018, pushing the state’s total to 66 cases. In the past five years, the annual average number of positive cases in South Carolina is about 110.