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      Bat bites person, tests positive for rabies

      A bat found in Horry County has tested positive for rabies, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

      A person was bitten by the bat. DHEC does not comment on medical treatment victims may be receiving, but it is standard practice for people bitten by rabid animals to undergo immediate medical treatment.

      "In this case, the victim was aware of the bat bite," said Sue Ferguson, with DHEC. "However, bats have small teeth that might leave marks not easily seen. 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."

      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."

      This is the fifth confirmed rabid animal of the year in Horry County. Five rabid animals were confirmed there last year. There were 107 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2011 in South Carolina.

      There have been 77 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year.

      Click here for more information about rabies.