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Rabid Bat Confirmed in Orangeburg and Beaufort Counties; One Person and One Pet Exposed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 13, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a bat found near Springdale Drive and St. Matthews Road NE in Orangeburg, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. No people are known to have been exposed at this time. One dog was exposed and will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina Rabies Control Act. The bat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on September 9, 2021, and was confirmed to have rabies on September 10, 2021.

A second bat found near Lands End Road and Lands End Court in Hilton Head Island, S.C., also tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and has been referred to their healthcare provider. This bat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on September 10, 2021, and was confirmed to have rabies on September 11, 2021.

Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands. Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets, or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Once a bat is released, it cannot be tested for rabies. So, never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet. 

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program Team Leader. “People don’t always realize they’ve been bitten or that a pet has been bitten since bat teeth are tiny and bites are easy to overlook. Because of this, you should always assume a person or pet has potentially been bitten when: •    They wake up to find a bat in a room or tent; •    A bat is found where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended; or •    They have been in direct contact with a bat.”

“Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with the virus. Bats are an important part of South Carolina's ecosystems and deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals,” said McCollister. You cannot tell if a bat, or any other animal, has rabies by simply looking at it. Rabies must be confirmed in a laboratory. Unusual behavior in bats that might indicate the animal has rabies includes daytime activity, inability to fly, and being found in places they are not usually seen, like in your home or on your lawn. Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or body fluids from an infected animal. Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention.

If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Orangeburg office at (803) 533-5490 or Beaufort office at (843) 846-1030 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2). 

It is important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease. The Orangeburg bat is the third animal in Orangeburg County to test positive for rabies in 2021, and the Hilton Head Island bat is the second animal from Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2021. There have been 66 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2020, there were 168 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina. One of the 2020 cases was in Orangeburg County and seven were in Beaufort County.

Contact information for your local Environmental Affairs Health offices is available at www.scdhec.gov/EAoffices. For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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