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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2010

Beaufort County residents alerted about danger of rabies; advised to vaccinate pets

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A Hilton Head man who was bitten by a raccoon June 16 is under the care of a physician after the animal tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

“The incident occurred when the man tried to break up a fight between the raccoon and a dog,” said 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, so the man is undergoing the preventive inoculations.

According to Ferguson, 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.

“Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” Ferguson said. “About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.

“Therefore, to protect both the pets and their owners, we strongly encourage residents to make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.

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

This is the third confirmed rabid animal, all raccoons, in Beaufort County in 2010. Last year, there were seven rabid animals confirmed in the county, including five raccoons, one fox and a dog. In 2009, there were 152 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 44 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's Web page at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC’s Beaufort County Environmental Health office in Bluffton at (843) 757-6441. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web page about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.

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For more information:
Thom Berry - (803) 898-3885
E-mail - berrytw@dhec.sc.gov
BNR1987