DHEC warning residents of rabies after rabid bat bites man

COLUMBIA – A Dorchester County man is receiving post-exposure preventive shots after being bitten by a rabid bat July 29, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"The man was bitten when he picked up a pipe in his back yard in St. George," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "The bat was hiding inside the pipe. The bat was submitted to DHEC's Bureau of Laboratories and confirmed to have rabies."

"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.

Ferguson 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. 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."

This is the first confirmed rabid animal in Dorchester County in 2010. Last year, there were two rabid animals, both raccoons, confirmed in the county. In 2009, there were 152 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far this year, there have been 58 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 Dorchester County Environmental Health office at 843-821-9524. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web page about rabies can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rabies.