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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2010

Be alert to the possibility rabies from bat bites

COLUMBIA - Three recent incidents in Charleston County in which nine people required post-exposure preventive shots have served as a reminder for South Carolinians to be aware of the potential for rabies from bats, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“Bats are a known carrier of rabies,” said Robert Ball, M.D., DHEC’s Region 7 infectious disease consultant in Charleston. “Bats have very small, sharp teeth that might feel like a mosquito bite, so people may not realize they have been bitten.”

DHEC recommends that anyone who is exposed to rabies from a possible bite from a bat, either capture or kill the bat, put it into a plastic bag and contact the Environmental Health office at your local DHEC county public health department.

“If the bat tests negative for rabies, anyone who was potentially exposed will avoid the post-exposure treatment by a physician,” Dr, Ball said.

Anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain, according to Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health. Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals.

“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,” Ferguson said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

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For more information:
Thom Berry - (803) 898-3885
E-mail - berrytw@dhec.sc.gov
Linda Pranger - (843) 953-0046
E-mail - prangell@dhec.sc.gov

BNR1980