Horry County bat positive for rabies

kgalliard@thesunnews.comJuly 13, 2012 

— A bat that has tested positive for rabies has been found in Horry County, prompting authorities to issue a reminder of the dangers of the animals.

S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials reported the bat finding on Friday.

Adam Myrick, spokesman for DHEC, said a young girl in the Socastee area was bitten by a bat while outside on Sunday. He said the bat was confirmed rabid on Tuesday, and the girl is now under the care of a physcian.

Myrick could not give other details about that incident, which he said is the first of Horry County’s five rabies cases since January to involve a bat.

“In this case, the victim was aware of the bat bite. However, bats have small teeth that might leave marks not easily seen,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health. “Some situations require medical advice even in the absence of an obvious bite wound. If you awaken and find a bat in your room, often referred to as ‘overnighting,’ 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.”

Myrick said residents should seek medical attention anytime they discover a bat in their home that may have been there for a period of time because of the possiblity that someone has been bitten and unaware of it. Seven bats have been confirmed as rabid in South Carolina so far this year, he said.

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 exposure to rabid bats.

“About 275 South Carolinians are advised to undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal,” Ferguson said. “Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease.

“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.”

There were 107 confirmed cases of animal rabies reported during 2011 in South Carolina. There have been 77 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC’s webpage at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact your local DHEC environmental health office. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

Contact KENNETH A. GALLIARD at 626-0312.

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