Forget Covid-19, Rabid Raccoons Are Rolling Up Into South Carolina Hospitals

Palmetto State’s health agency confirms Lexington Medical Center received an unwelcome holiday visitor …

As if the threat of contracting the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t worrisome enough, patients at one South Carolina hospital had a new health scare to contend with earlier this month: Rabid raccoons roaming the halls.

In a scene straight out of the third world, a raccoon infected with rabies entered Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, South Carolina late last week, according to a news release from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).

Wait … what?

Surely they meant the raccoon was found on the grounds of the facility, right? Or digging through a trash can outside of the building in search of food, right?

Nope … this animal was inside the hospital.

Paging Doc McStuffins

According to the release, SCDHEC “confirmed that a raccoon entered the Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, South Carolina.”

The raccoon was submitted to SCDHEC’s laboratory on Friday, December 18, 2020 and tested positive for rabies the following day.

“One person was exposed and has been referred to their health care provider,” the agency.

Hopefully they were referred to a raccoon-free facility …

Hospital officials told us the lone raccoon was never actually roaming the halls of the facility. According to them, it was “quickly caught” after entering the facility.

“It came into the hospital through the courtyard when someone opened the door,” one hospital official said. “The raccoon ran in behind the person … and it was quickly caught.”

Lexington Medical Center immediately notified the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) of the incident.

Per SCDHEC, this rabid raccoon is the fourteenth animal in Lexington county to test positive for rabies in 2020 – and the 167th confirmed rabies case in the Palmetto State so far this year. Since 2011, the state has averaged around 130 positive rabies cases annually.

Last year there were 17 cases in Lexington county and 148 cases statewide.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals plenty of space,” said Terri McCollister, SCDHEC’s rabies team leader. “If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator.”

The agency also reminded pet owners to keep their animals up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, citing this as “one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease.”

For more information on rabies visit this SCDHEC page or visit this page at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those wishing to report a bite or possible rabies exposure on holidays or times outside of normal business hours are urged to call the SCDHEC after-hours service number at 888-847-0902.




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