Rabid bat confirmed in Dillon County, 2 pets exposed

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DILLON COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control confirmed that a bat found near Live Oak Lane and Woodcreek Drive in Dillon has tested positive for rabies.

No people are known to have been exposed at this time. Two cats were exposed and will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina Rabies Control Act.

The bat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on September 16, and was confirmed to have rabies on September 17.

Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your 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 cannot 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,” Terri McCollister, Rabies Program Team Leader said. “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; 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.”

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. Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or body fluids from an infected animal. Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body 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,” McCollister said.

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.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).

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 first animal in Dillon County to test positive for rabies in 2021. There have been 71 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2020, one of the 168 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Dillon County.

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