DHEC: Coyote exposes 1 to rabies in Beaufort County

DHEC: Coyote exposes 1 to rabies in Beaufort County

OKATIE, SC (WCSC) - A bite from a coyote exposed one person in Beaufort County to rabies, and the victim has been referred to a doctor, according to the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The exposure occurred on Thursday in Okatie and the coyote tested positive for the virus on Friday, DHEC says.

A coyote is one of the five wild animals in which the most cases of rabies are found in South Carolina. The other four are raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, according to DHEC's website. Rabies is almost never seen in squirrels, opossums, mice, rabbits and chipmunks, the site states.

"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," Sandra Craig, director of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services, said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."

Sunday was the annual observance of World Rabies Day, a global movement to promote rabies prevention and control.

Anyone bitten or scratched by an animal that could have rabies should take the preventative treatment, consisting of a series of shots administered over a 14-day period, according to DHEC's website. The shots are given in a muscle, usually in the upper arm. They are extremely effective at preventing rabies if given as soon as possible after a bite/exposure.

During 2013, there were 124 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina, DHEC says. There have been 109 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year.

DHEC says this is the fourth animal to test positive for rabies in Beaufort County this year, compared with only one testing positive there in all of 2013.

Since 1990, an average of only one or two people in the U.S. die from rabies, DHEC says, and the agency credits that low number to pet vaccination campaigns and highly effective human rabies vaccinations for those who come into contact with a rabid animal.

For more information about rabies, visit DHEC's site: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies/