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Pickens County man bitten by rabid raccoon

by Sandy Foster: April 19, 2009

EASLEY - An Easley man is undergoing medical treatment after being bitten on the finger by a rabid raccoon, according to state health officials.

The incident happened last Tuesday when the man encountered the wild animal in his backyard, according to Adam Myrick, a spokesman for S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The unidentified man reported the bite to health officials two days later, and DHEC confirmed the animal was rabid Friday, Myrick said.

The man is undergoing preventative inoculations, according to Sue Ferguson, of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health.

"Once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals," she said."So the man is receiving preventive inoculations."

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, Ferguson said.

"Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," she said.

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,” Ferguson said.

State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.

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, according to Ferguson.

However, this is the first confirmed rabid animal in Pickens County this year, she said.

Last year, there were no confirmed cases here, but there were 166 cases in other parts of the state.

This latest report makes the 48th confirmed case in South Carolina this year, according to DHEC officials.

"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."