One person in the Okatie area of Beaufort County has been referred to a health care provider after being bitten by a coyote that tested positive for rabies, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today.
The exposure occurred on September 25, 2014, and the coyote tested positive for rabies on September 26, 2014.
“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). “About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.”
“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,” Craig said. “Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. It is also rarely contracted through breaks in the skin or contact with mucous membranes. It has been suggested that airborne transmission is possible in caves where there are heavyconcentrations of bats.
According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.
Rabies infected animals can appear very aggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva. Sometimes the animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.
Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, thedisease is nearly 100% fatal.
Although worldwide it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually,human rabies cases are extremely rare in the United States, which averages less than five human rabies cases annually.
Human rabies is prevented by administration of rabies vaccine and rabies immune globulin. For moreinfectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page