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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2015

Bat exposes one person to rabies in York 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 Rock Hill area of York County.

The bat was initially believed to be a leaf in a pool and was picked up by the victim using their bare hands. There was no obvious evidence that the victim was bitten or scratched by the bat. However, bat bites are often hard to identify as bat teeth are so small. The possible exposure occurred on July 15, 2015, and the bat tested positive for rabies on July 17.

"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."

According to Craig, "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. Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands."

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the virus to humans and pets," said Craig. "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. Bats that have the potential to have been in contact with people, their pets or livestock 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 how to safely capture a bat, 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 81 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the fifth to test positive in 2015 from York County. There were 13 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/.

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Cassandra Harris
Public Information Officer
harriscs@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.1127