COLUMBIA, S.C. - A couple has been recommended to discuss with their health care provider the option of receiving post-exposure treatment after finding a rabid bat in the Harbison area of Lexington County, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.
"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "Bats have very small, sharp teeth that might feel like a mosquito bite, so people might not realize that they have been bitten.
"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," Craig said. "About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."
"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," Craig said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
DHEC recommends that anyone who is exposed to rabies from a possible bite from a bat, either safely capture or kill the bat, put it into a plastic bag, and contact their nearest DHEC Environmental Health Services office. Always use protection such as leather gloves when handling bats; do not use bare hands.
There were 124 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 21 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the second to test positive in 2014 from Lexington County. There were 13 positives in animals in that county in 2013.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at /Health/DiseasesandConditions/InfectiousDiseases/InsectAnimalBorne/Rabies/, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/behs/regions.htm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpages can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies and http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/capture.html.
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