Berkeley County child treated for rabies exposure after fox bite

A red fox kit greets its mother when she returns to their den on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 in Erie, Colo. (AP Photo/Peter M. Fredin)

The Pineville girl bitten by a fox on the first day of school is undergoing treatment to prevent rabies after the animal tested positive for the disease, health officials said.

The girl, 11, was bitten while walking to the bus stop. Her grandfather shot and killed the fox, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

The incident happened Monday, officials said.

The risk of contracting rabies usually is associated with the saliva of an infected animal, which is why health officials are most concerned about bites and scratches, said Jim Beasley, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

It was the second time this month that a rabies-infected animal bit area residents. On Aug. 8 officials reported that two people bitten by a pet raccoon in Hollywood were undergoing treatment to prevent rabies after the animal tested positive for the disease. Three others who had come into contact with the raccoon also were being treated, officials said.

In January, five adults and one teen in Charleston County received preventive treatment after being scratched or bitten by a cat that tested positive for rabies, according to DHEC.

There were 137 confirmed cases of animal rabies during 2012 in South Carolina. So far, there have been 82 confirmed cases in animals this year, according to DHEC.

About 275 South Carolinians undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies if they are not vaccinated.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild,” said Sue Ferguson of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.

Rabies is a slow-moving disease and can take months to develop. Treatment is almost always effective if given before rabies symptoms appear. However, without preventive care, rabies is almost invariably fatal.

The first rabies death in the state in more than 50 years happened in December 2011 when a 46-year-old Sumter County woman died shortly after diagnosis. She was believed to have contracted the illness from bats in her home.

In South Carolina, rabies is most often found in raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. It is also common in coyotes. Rabies is almost never seen in squirrels, opossums, mice, rabbits and chipmunks, according to DHEC.

Very few Americans die from rabies — on average, 1 to 2 per year since 1990.

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