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June 22, 2018

Bat Potentially Exposes One Person to Rabies in Richland County

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has referred one person to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to a rabid bat in the Columbia area of Richland County. On June 18th, the bat was found inside a residence. The victim was potentially exposed while sleeping. The captured bat tested positive for rabies on June 19th.

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus to humans and pets," said David Vaughan, director of rabies prevention. "People don't always realize they've been bitten, as 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 in any area where someone has been sleeping or where unattended children, those with cognitive impairments, the elderly, or an intoxicated person, always assume the bat could have bitten them,” Vaughan said. “The bat should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Call your local DHEC Environmental Affairs 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

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. You cannot tell 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 think you may have been exposed to rabies from an animal, particularly if a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or neural tissue occurred, 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 second animal in Richland County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 39 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, 2 of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Richland County.

Residents can contact their local Environmental Affairs office using DHEC's interactive map: For more information on rabies visit: or


DHEC Media Relations
(803) 898-7769