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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reports at least 18 people have been referred to health providers following exposure to rabies from a puppy in Dorchester County. File

At least 18 people have been referred to health providers following potential exposure to rabies from a puppy in Dorchester County, according to the state health department. 

The victims may have been exposed between Aug. 22 and Sep. 6. 

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control describes the puppy as being a small black-and-brown shepherd mix.

It was rescued in St. George close to Interstate 95 near Mount Zion and Bruce roads. The puppy tested positive for the disease on Sunday.

It's the third animal to test positive for the disease this year, according to DHEC. There have been 102 cases of rabid animals this year. South Carolina typically averages a little over 100 cases a year. 

Some of the symptoms of rabies include muscle spasms, fever, headaches and excessive salivation. The 18 potential victims were either scratched, bitten or exposed by having contact with the puppy.

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David Vaughan, director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention and Enforcement Division, said in a press release that the disease typically is transmitted from the saliva of an infected animal.

"However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies," he said.

DHEC recommends the public report wild and stray animals to a local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitation expert. For anyone exposed to the puppy or any animal that potentially has rabies, DHEC asks them to call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Charleston office at 843-953-0150 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  

The after-hours service number for DHEC is (888) 847-0902.

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.