Image  by Todd Cravens - Free use photo

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed that a bat found near Melon Drive and Cornish Way in West Columbia tested positive for rabies. 

No people are known to have been exposed. One dog was exposed and will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina rabies control act.

The bat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing Tuesday and was confirmed to have rabies Wednesday. 

DHEC noted that individuals who find bats should never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with 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. Once a bat is released, it can't be tested for rabies. Never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet. 

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus,” said Terri McCollister, rabies program team leader. “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, tent, or space where sleeping; 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.”

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.

Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or body fluids from an infected animal. Be sure to immediately wash any body parts that may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention.

“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. 

Those who know of exposures are asked to contact (803) 896-0620.

This bat is the fourth animal in Lexington County to test positive for rabies in 2021. There have been 69 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2020, 14 of the 168 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Lexington County.

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