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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2015

Bat exposes person and pet to rabies  in Sumter County

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

The victim awoke to find a bat flying around the bedroom on June 15. Two bats were found in the home, and one tested positive for rabies on June 17. The victim's dog was also in the bedroom at the time of the potential exposure. Since the dog was current on its rabies vaccination, it will be required to receive a rabies booster and to only undergo a 45-day quarantine.

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans and pets," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "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 could have bitten the sleeping person or the unattended children. The bat should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched; call your local DHEC BEHS office to report the incident.

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.

"People often incorrectly associate bats with rabies," Craig said. "Not all bats have rabies. 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."

"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."

"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 71 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the fourth animal to test positive in 2015 from Sumter County. There were two animals that tested positive for rabies in that county in 2014.

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