Two pets were exposed to a bat and coyote with rabies in South Carolina late last week.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, a bat found near Old Nail Road in Jackson last week tested positive for rabies on Monday. One cat was exposed and will be quarantined as required by the South Carolina Rabies Control Act.
A coyote also found last week near Saye Place Road in Chester tested positive for rabies on Monday. One dog was exposed and will be quarantined.
There have been 36 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2021, three of the 101 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Aiken County and none were in Chester County.
It’s important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease, the department states.
“Never handle a bat or any wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC rabies program team leader. “Any bat that could have had potential contact with people, pets, or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Once a bat is released, it cannot be tested for rabies.”
McCollister added that people don’t always realize they or a pet have been bitten by bats since their teeth are tiny and the bites are easy to overlook. Because of this, it should be assumed a person or pet has potentially been bitten by a bat when:
They wake up to find a bat in a room or tent
A bat is found where children, pets, or persons with impaired mental capacity (intoxicated or mentally disabled) have been left unattended
They have been in direct contact with a bat.
“Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with the virus. Bats are an important part of South Carolina’s ecosystems and deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals,” McCollister said. “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 might indicate the animal has rabies includes daytime activity, inability to fly, and being found in places they are not usually seen, like in your home or on your lawn. An exposure is defined as direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal. Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention.
If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Aiken office at (803) 642-1637 or the Lancaster office at (803) 285-7461 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday). After hours and on holidays call (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).