DHEC is working to ensure people's safety after bats got into both the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg and a building on the USC School of Medicine campus

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In recent weeks, the Department of Health and Environmental Control began investigations on bat sightings at both the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg and in a building on the USC School of Medicine Campus in Columbia, causing concerns for many.

"When you find bats in a business, a main concern is is that bat going to be in contact with the population that may be utilizing the structure?" said A All Animal Control of Columbia owner Vince Cunningham. "Such as in the living space, any bats that are found in the living space definitely want to be removed immediately due to the dangers that they pose to the occupants."

Bats can transmit rabies and if left untouched for 2-5 years, Cunningham says their excrement can cause a respiratory infection called histoplasmosis. The USC medical school has restricted certain areas in the affected building, but the hospital remains operating on a normal basis.

Cunningham says businesses can continue operating during the removal process -- if bats don't come in contact with the inhabitants. He adds the removal is often lengthy because it frequently requires building repairs.

"He will return the next morning to look for his home, where he lives," said Cunningham. "If he can't find it, he's going to look for an alternate location and if you don't seal those areas on that structure, the bat will move to another problem area or create a problem in another area if you don't take those precautions."

DHEC says they've taken many precautions by contacting patients and employees at the Regional Medical Center who are in possible need of treatment. As of 130 people are being evaluated.

Officials are also monitoring the USC building, where all of the bats caught so far have tested negative for rabies.

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