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      Orangeburg hospital patients warned about bats

      Photo: Regional Medical Center (Facebook)

      ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP/WCIV) -- South Carolina health officials want anyone who stayed in the east wing of an Orangeburg hospital this year to call them.

      The Department of Health and Environmental Control says those patients at the Regional Medical Center could have been exposed to bats and might have a possibility of contracting rabies from a bat bite.

      "Bats can transmit rabies to people through bites or theintroduction of saliva into open wounds," said Linda Bell, M.D. and stateepidemiologist. "Bats have small teeth that can cause bites that may gounnoticed. For this reason, it's important to identify a person thatpotentially came in direct contact with a bat to assess their health risk forrabies exposure."

      Officials say they have not discovered any bat bites at the hospital, but bats have small teeth and bites can go unnoticed.

      DHEC and CDC are currently notifying more than 800 patients and300 hospital staff to encourage individuals who had direct, physical contactwith a bat or who awakened to find a bat in a room to call DHEC to assess their potential risk forrabies exposure.

      The Regional Medical Center has established a clinic at thehospital to serve any patients or staff who are referred for follow-up medicalevaluation and possible preventive rabies treatment.

      "Our priority is to ensure that patients who received care atRMC are safe," said Marilyn Tremblay, R.N. and chief information officer forthe Regional Medical Center. "We are committed to working with DHEC and CDC toresolve this situation and prevent such events from happening in the future.RMC will offer medical evaluation and preventive rabies treatment regardless ofa patient's ability to pay for services."{}

      DHEC and federal officials are notifying 800 patients and 300 staff members that could have been exposed. The hospital says the bats likely got into the building during a roofing project.

      The DHEC hotline is 1-800-868-0404. The Regional Medical Center also has its own hotline at 803-395-3837.

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