Officials from the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control confirmed Monday that a bat found near Washington and Lincoln streets in Columbia has tested positive for rabies. No people or pets are known to have been exposed at this time.
The bat was turned in to DHEC’s lab for testing Thursday and was confirmed to be rabid as of Friday.
Anyone who may know of possible exposures to people or animals is asked to contact DHEC.
Officials advise to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue of the rabid animal with plenty of soap and water, and seek medical attention. Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva/bodily 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.” According to McCollister, anyone should assume a person has potentially been bitten if they wake up to find a bat in a room or tent with them.
“Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with the virus,” McCollister added. “Bats are an important part of South Carolina’s ecosystems and deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals. 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 may indicate the animal has rabies include daytime activity, inability to fly, and being found in places they are not usually seen – like in homes or on lawns.
Anyone who thinks a family member or pet may have come into contact with the bat or another potentially rabid animal is asked to call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Columbia office at 803-896-0620 from 8:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. After hours/holidays number: 888-847-0902 (select option 2).