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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2015

Bat exposes one person to rabies in Pickens County

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has referred one person to a private health care provider to discuss post-exposure treatment after being potentially exposed to a rabid bat in the Clemson area of Pickens County.

"People often incorrectly associate bats with rabies," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "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 that a bat, or any other animal, has rabies by simply looking at it. Rabies must be confirmed in a laboratory."

The Clemson bat was found dead in a room where the victim had been sleeping. There was no obvious evidence that the victim was bitten or scratched by the bat. The possible exposure occurred on April 8, 2015, and the bat tested positive for rabies on April 10.

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans and pets," Craig said. "People - especially children - sometimes don't realize they've been bitten and it is very easy to overlook a bat bite because bat teeth are so tiny. If you find a bat in a room, a tent or a cabin where someone has been sleeping or where unattended children have been playing, always assume the bat has bitten the sleeping person or the unattended children.

"Rabies warning signs in bats include daytime activity, inability to fly, approachability, and location. Rabies should be suspected if bats are found in places they are not usually seen like in your home or on your lawn. If safe to do so, suspect bats found in homes should be captured and submitted for testing without delay. Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands."

For more information on safely capturing a bat in your home, please visit the CDC's website at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/contact/capture.html.

"Wild animals contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well," Craig said. "To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal.

"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," Craig said. "Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."

There were 139 confirmed cases of rabies in animals during 2014 in South Carolina. There have been 42 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the sixth to test positive in 2015 from Pickens County. There were eight animals that tested positive for rabies in that county in 2014.

DHEC-sponsored rabies vaccination clinics are now underway to protect pets from this deadly disease. Vaccination is the best way to help protect your pet and your family. To find a clinic near you, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/Health/DiseasesandConditions/InfectiousDiseases/InsectAnimalBorne/Rabies/Clinics/.

For additional information on rabies, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage about rabies and bats can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/index.html.

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Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769