RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a bat found near Wheat Street and Holly Street in Columbia, S.C., has tested positive for rabies.
According to DHEC, four people and three pets were potentially exposed. The people were refereed to their healthcare providers and the pets will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina Rabies Control Act.
The bat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on August 19 and was confirmed to have rabies on August 20.
If anyone knows of possible human or animal exposure, contact DHEC. DHEC also reminds people 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 direct contact with saliva or body fluids from an infected animal.
“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus to humans and pets,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “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.
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. Similarly, never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands.
“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 Vaughan.
You can't 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, someone you know, 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 p.m., Monday-Friday). To report a bite or exposure on holidays or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number at (888) 847-0902.
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 fifth animal in Richland County to test positive for rabies in 2020. There have been 101 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2011, South Carolina has averaged approximately 130 positive cases a year. In 2019, seven of the 148 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Richland County.