Rabid Bat Confirmed in Lexington County; Three Pets Exposed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sept. 15, 2023
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a bat found near Horace Court and Kyzer Road in Lexington, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. No people are known to have been exposed at this time. One cat and two dogs were 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 13, 2023, and was confirmed to have rabies on September 14, 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 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).
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 director. “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; 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. 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.
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 seventh animal in Lexington County to test positive for rabies in 2023. There have been 62 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.