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Pets Exposed to Rabid Animals in SC

A bat and a raccoon tested positive.

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COLUMBIA, SC — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that animals with rabies have recently been found in the state, with several pets potentially being exposed.

The agency confirmed that a bat found in Elgin, SC, tested positive for rabies. No people are known to have been exposed. Four cats were potentially exposed and will be quarantined as required in the South Carolina Rabies Control Act, according to a press release.

A raccoon also tested positive for rabies in Bamberg County. The animal was found in Ehrhardt, SC. No people are known to have been exposed. One puppy that is too young to be vaccinated against rabies was exposed, according to the release.

“Out of an abundance of caution and due to the risk associated with a known exposure to a pet that has never been vaccinated, the owners have chosen to have the puppy euthanized,” the agency stated.

The Richland County bat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on April 21, and the Bamberg County raccoon was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory on April 20. Both were confirmed to have rabies on April 22.

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More from the release:

You cannot tell if an animal has rabies by simply looking at it. Rabies must be confirmed in a laboratory. Exposure is defined as a bite, scratch, or contact with saliva or body fluids 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. Never handle a wild or stray animal, alive or dead, with your bare hands.

“Rabid bats have been known to transmit the rabies virus,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program Team Leader. “People don’t always realize they or a pet have been bitten since bat teeth are tiny and bites are easy to overlook. Because of this, you should always assume a person or pet 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

=They have been in direct contact with a bat.”

Any bat that could have had contact with people, pets, or livestock should be safely trapped in a sealed container and not touched. Never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet as it will be needed for rabies testing.

If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with this bat, this raccoon, or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Columbia office at (803) 896-0620 or Orangeburg office at (803) 533-5490 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).

It is 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 Richland County bat and the Bamberg County raccoon are the first animals in their counties to test positive for rabies in 2022. There have been 21 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. Of the 101 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina in 2021, 11 were in Richland County, and none were in Bamberg County.

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