Bat confirmed with rabies in Florence

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FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a bat found near Malloy Street and East Maxwell Street in Florence, SC has tested positive for rabies.

The bat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on September 11 and was confirmed to have rabies on September 14.

No exposures have been reported at this time.

“Rabies is a threat to humans, pets, and wild animals,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “All pet owners should have their dogs, cats, and ferrets vaccinated regularly as required by state law. It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family, and you that pet vaccinations are kept up to date. Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined or euthanized for testing.”

Please contact DHEC if you know of any possible human or animal exposures. 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 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. 

If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come into contact with this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Florence office at (843) 661-4825 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.

This bat is the second animal in Florence County to test positive for rabies in 2020. There have been 121 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2011, South Carolina has averaged approximately 130 positive cases a year. In 2019, one of the 148 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Florence County.

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