DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Two people were exposed to a rabid bat in Dorchester County.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on Thursday confirmed that a bat found near Sentry Circle and Royal Palm Lane in North Charleston recently tested positive for rabies.

The bat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on October 11 and confirmed to have rabies on the following day.

Health officials said the two people who were exposed to the bat have been referred to their healthcare providers.

“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 rabies virus,” said Terri McCollister, 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. Never release a bat that has potentially exposed a person or pet.”

DHEC said people do not always realize they – or their pet – have been bitten by a bat since its teeth are tiny and the bites are often easy to overlook. Because of this, it should be assumed 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.

“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,” said McCollister.

If you believe that you, someone you know, or your pets have encountered this bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Charleston office at (843) 953-0150 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).