Person exposed to rabies by raccoon in Mount Pleasant

A raccoon thought to be infected with distemper stands on its hind legs after being trapped on Folly Beach on March 3, 2013. A person is being treated for possible rabies exposure after handling a raccoon near Mount Pleasant this week.

A person is being treated for possible rabies exposure after coming into contact with a raccoon that tested positive for the disease near Mount Pleasant earlier this week.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported the case Friday. It’s the first animal in Charleston County to test positive for the disease this year.

The raccoon was seen acting abnormally Sunday and the possible rabies exposure happened Monday while the person was trying to care for the animal, the agency said.

The raccoon was taken to DHEC’s laboratory for testing Tuesday, the agency said. It was confirmed to be carrying rabies the next day.

“Be sure to never handle a wild or stray animal with your bare hands,” Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services said in a statement. “Once symptoms of rabies are present in an animal, it is impossible to tell by appearance if an animal has rabies or some other condition. Always play it safe and give animals their space, particularly wild and stray animals.

Rabies is a viral disease transmitted when saliva or nervous system tissue from an infected animal enters into the body through a bite or contact with an open wound, Craig said.

“Hundreds of South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year,” she said.

DHEC also recommends keeping pets up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.

There have been 63 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year, DHEC said. In 2015, none of the 130 rabies cases in South Carolina were in Charleston County.

For more information on rabies, go to scdhec.gov/rabies.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.