COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today that patients of the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, SC, who stayed overnight in the hospital's east wing between January 1 and February 16, 2014, are encouraged to contact DHEC to assess their health risk for possible exposure to bats, which can sometimes transmit rabies to people.
DHEC is working with the Regional Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate reports of recent bat sightings or contact with bats. To date, the joint investigation has not identified any reports of bites from bats by Regional Medical Center patients or employees.
"Bats can transmit rabies to people through bites or the introduction of saliva into open wounds," said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. "Bats have small teeth that can cause bites that may go unnoticed. For this reason, it's important to identify a person that potentially came in direct contact with a bat to assess their health risk for rabies exposure."
DHEC and CDC are currently notifying more than 800 patients and 300 hospital staff to encourage individuals who had direct, physical contact with a bat or who awakened to find a bat in a room to call DHEC at 1-855-472-3432 to assess their potential risk for rabies exposure and provide referrals for further medical evaluation, if needed.
The Regional Medical Center has established a clinic at the hospital to serve any patients or staff who are referred for follow-up medical evaluation and possible preventive rabies treatment.
"Our priority is to ensure that patients who received care at RMC are safe," said Marilyn Tremblay, R.N. and chief information officer for the Regional Medical Center. "We are committed to working with DHEC and CDC to resolve this situation and prevent such events from happening in the future. RMC will offer medical evaluation and preventive rabies treatment regardless of a patient's ability to pay for services."
RMC has also set up a hotline number for patients and employees who have questions about the ongoing bat investigation. The hospital hotline number is 803-395-3837.
For more information about bats and rabies, visit www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats.
For media inquiries:
DHEC Public Information
CDC Media Relations:
Phone: (404) 259-7064
RMC Public Relations: