Rabid Bat Confirmed in Richland County; One Person Exposed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 17, 2021
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a bat found near Converse Street and Clemson Avenue near Crayton Middle School in Columbia, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and has been referred to their healthcare provider. There are no reported pet exposures at this time.
The bat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on May 13, 2021, and was confirmed to have rabies on May 14, 2021.
Please contact DHEC if you know of any possible exposures to people or animals. Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention. Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or body fluids from an infected animal.
“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus to people and pets,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program Team Leader. “People don’t always realize they’ve been bitten since bat teeth are tiny and bites are easy to overlook. Because of this, you should always assume a person 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 a person or pet has been in direct contact with a bat.”
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.
“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.”
If you believe that you, family members, or pets have come into contact with this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Columbia office at (803) 896-0620 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday) or the DHEC after hours service number 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 third animal in Richland County to test positive for rabies in 2021. There have been 28 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2020, eight of the 168 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Richland County.