At least 10 people exposed to rabid raccoon in Bluffton

Local News

BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) – A raccoon found back on June 30 has tested positive for rabies.

According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), the animal was found near May River and Pritchard Farms roads.

At least 10 people were exposed and have been referred to their health care providers. An exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with the raccoon’s saliva or body fluids bite.

DHEC is still investigating other potential exposures.

The raccoon was submitted to the agency’s lab on July 6 for testing and was confirmed to have rabies the following day.

David Vaughan, director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division, says the best way to reduce the risk of getting rabies is to give wild and stray animals plenty of space. If the animal is in need, avoid touching it and contact animal control or a wildlife rehab center, Vaughan suggests.

“The possibility of exposure to rabies can occur anywhere, anytime,” he said. “If you believe that you or someone you know has had contact with or been potentially exposed to this or another suspect animal, please reach out to your local Environmental Affairs office.”

Officials ask anyone who knows of possible human or animal exposure to call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Beaufort office at 843-846-1030 during normal business hours or after hours at 888-847-0902.

If you or a pet has been exposed, the agency urges you to immediately wash the area that may have come in contact with the animal’s saliva or body fluids with “plenty” of soap and water and then seek medical attention.

This raccoon is the fourth animal in Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2020, according to DHEC. There have been 66 cases of rabid animals statewide this year.

DHEC reports that since 2011, South Carolina has averaged approximately 130 positive cases a year. In 2019, four of the 148 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Beaufort County.

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