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 For Immediate Release
October 15, 2014

Bat exposes two people and puppy to rabies in Charleston County

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Two people have been recommended to receive post-exposure treatment after being potentially exposed to a rabid bat in the West Ashley area of Charleston County, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

A nine-week-old puppy belonging to a West Ashley family was found with a bat in its mouth on Oct. 10, 2014. The owner of the puppy and another family member removed the bat from the puppy's mouth with their bare hands. After being submitted to DHEC for testing, the bat tested positive for rabies on Oct. 14. The two family members have been recommended to undergo post-exposure treatment. The puppy is too young to have been vaccinated prior to the incident, requiring it to undergo a 180-day quarantine.

"Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined for 180 days or be euthanized," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). "Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC-sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring, and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics.

"Talk to your veterinarian to determine when you should vaccinate a young puppy or kitten, as well as when to schedule a booster," she said. "Puppies and kittens younger than twelve weeks are often not eligible for vaccination.

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans and pets," Craig said. "Bats have very small, sharp teeth, so people might not realize that they have been bitten. If you find a bat in a room where someone has been sleeping or where unattended children have been playing, please contact DHEC immediately. To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. 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 contract 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. "Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."

There were 124 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2013 in South Carolina. There have been 116 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the first to test positive in 2014 from Charleston County. There were four animals that tested positive for rabies in Charleston County in 2013.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHEClocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpages can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies. For CDCs information on bats and rabies, also visit: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/.

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Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769