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Rabid Cat and Rabid Bat Confirmed in Charleston County; Two People, One Pet, and a Feral Cat Colony Exposed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 24, 2022

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that:

  • a gray feral cat that is part of a larger feral cat colony found near Apple Street and Hickman Street in North Charleston, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and has been referred to their healthcare provider. The rabid cat has potentially exposed an unknown number of feral cats within the colony. This is an ongoing investigation.
     
  • a bat found near Rifle Range Road and Scotts Creek Circle in Mount Pleasant, S.C., also tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and has been referred to their healthcare provider. One dog was exposed and will be quarantined as required in the Rabies Control Act. 

The cat and the bat were both submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on June 22, 2022, and were confirmed to have rabies on June 23, 2022.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals plenty of space,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program 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, wildlife control operator, or wildlife rehabilitator.”

Stray and feral cats serve as a significant source for rabies exposure. An exposure is defined as direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal. If pets in the area have received any unexplained injuries or have been seen interacting with feral cats in recent weeks, please contact your veterinarian’s office.

Additionally, never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet. Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets, or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched.

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus,” McCollister said. “People don’t always realize they or a pet have been bitten since bat teeth are tiny and bites are easy to overlook."

Because of this, it's recommended to assume that 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.

If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with either of these rabies positive animals or other suspect animals, please call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Charleston office at (843) 953-0150 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 which is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease. The cat is the first animal in Charleston County to test positive for rabies in 2022, and the bat is the second animal to test positive for rabies in Charleston County in 2022. There have been 34 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2021, eight of the 101 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina occurred in Charleston County.

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

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