Bat may have exposed Charleston victim to rabies, DHEC says


The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control says an unidentified victim is being treated after coming in contact with a rabid bat.

The potential exposure happened on Sunday when the victim was bitten by the bat while in their home, DHEC says. The bat was submitted to the agency's lab on Monday and confirmed to have had rabies on Tuesday.

"Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus to humans and pets," David Vaughan, DHEC Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division Director, said. "Although bats can carry rabies, not every bat is infected with the virus."

You cannot tell whether 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.

Vaughan said people do not always realize they've been bitten since bat teeth are tiny and bites are easy to overlook. 

He said you should always assume a person has potentially been bitten 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; or
  • A person or pet has been in direct contact with a bat.

There have been 63 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 110 positive cases a year.

The Charleston County bat was the second animal to test positive for rabies in Charleston County this year. In 2017, three of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Charleston County.

Someone in Richland County is also being treated for possible rabies exposure from a bat, the report states. That exposure happened on Aug. 17 when the victim woke up and found a bat in their bedroom. That bat was also found to be rabid, DHEC said.

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