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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2011

Aiken County woman exposed to rabies by bat

COLUMBIA, S.C. – An Aiken County woman is under the care of a physician after being bitten by a bat that tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"The lady thought she was picking up a leaf out of a College Acres swimming pool," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "It turns out it was a bat that then bit the lady on the finger.

"In cases like this, people know when they have been bitten by a bat," Ferguson said. "However, bats have small teeth that may leave marks not easily seen, and some situations require that you seek medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. For example, if you awaken and find a bat in your room or if you see a bat in the room of an unattended child, or near a mentally impaired or intoxicated person, seek medical advice and have the bat tested."

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the recent human rabies cases in the U.S. have been caused by rabies virus from bats.

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the woman is receiving 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.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, it is also recommended that people 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, residents should vaccinate their pets regularly 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 sixth confirmed rabid animal in Aiken County in 2011. Last year, there were no rabid animals confirmed in the county. In 2010, there were 106 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 55 confirmed cases in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC's Aiken County Environmental Health Office (803) 642-1637. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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For media inquiries:
Adam Myrick – (803) 898-3884
Email – myrickar@dhec.sc.gov
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