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Rabid Bat Confirmed in Lexington County; One Pet Exposed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MAY 18, 2023

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has confirmed that a bat found near Dutchman Shores Circle and Murray Lindler Road in Chapin, 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 May 17, 2023, and was confirmed to have rabies May 18, 2023. If you believe 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 Midlands Public Health Columbia office at (803) 896-0620 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).

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. 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.

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. Never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet. Once a bat is released, it cannot be tested for rabies.

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program team leader. “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, 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
  • They have been in direct contact with a bat

“Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with the virus,” McCollister said. "Bats are an important part of South Carolina's ecosystems and deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals."

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.

If you believe 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 Midlands Public Health Columbia office at (803) 896-0620 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 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. This bat is the second animal in Lexington County to test positive for rabies in 2023. There have been 22 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2022, eight of the 83 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Lexington County.

Contact information for your local Public Health offices is available at https://scdhec.gov/RabiesContacts. For more information on rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies or cdc.gov/rabies.

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