FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2018
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has referred four people to health care providers for post-exposure treatment after being potentially exposed to a rabid bat in the Latta area of Dillon County.
On March 20, the bat was found in a bedroom where a person had been sleeping. The bat tested positive for rabies on March 21. A pet dog was also in the bedroom at the time of the potential exposure. The dog was current on its rabies vaccination and is required to receive a rabies booster and undergo a 45-day quarantine.
"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus to humans and pets," said David Vaughan of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "People - especially children - sometimes don't realize they've been bitten and it is very easy to overlook a bat bite because bat teeth are so tiny.
"If you find a bat in a room, a tent or a cabin where someone has been sleeping or where unattended children have been playing, always assume the bat could have bitten the sleeping person or the unattended children," Vaughan said. "The bat should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched; call your local DHEC BEHS office to report the incident. Never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet. Once a bat is released, it cannot be tested for rabies. Similarly, never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands." For more information on safely capturing a bat, please visit the CDC's website at: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/capture.html.
According to Vaughan, "Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with this virus. Bats are an important part of South Carolina's ecosystems and deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals. You can't tell that 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 include being out during the day, being unable to fly, and being found in places they are not usually seen, like in your home or on your lawn.
If you think you may have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to your local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC After-Hours Service number (888) 847-0902.
The bat is the first animal in Dillon County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 11 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, none of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Dillon County.
Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC's interactive map: http://www.scdhec.gov/EAOffices. For more information on rabies visit: www.scdhec.gov/rabies or https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.
DHEC Media Relations