Image  by Todd Cravens - Free use photo

South Carolina DHEC confirmed Monday that a bat found near Converse Street and Clemson Avenue near Crayton Middle School in Columbia has tested positive for rabies.

One person was exposed and has been referred to their healthcare provider, according to DHEC officials. There are no reported pet exposures at this time.

The bat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on May 13 and was confirmed to have rabies on May 14.

Those who are aware of any possible exposures to people or animals are asked to contact DHEC. Individuals exposed are instructed to immediately wash any body part 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.”

DHEC instructs those who come across any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, to never handle the animal with bare hands. Any bat that may have had potential contact with people, pets or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. A bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet should never be released back into the wild. 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.”

Those who may have come into contact with this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies are asked to call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Columbia office at (803) 896-0620.

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. DHEC reported that 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.

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