South Carolina officials are warning the public about several bat colonies that have been found in Conway.
SC DHEC said that recently, a large colony of bats was observed exiting the chimney area of a commercial building in downtown Conway.
“After speaking with several other business owners in the area, we have confirmed that bats are dwelling in other buildings in downtown Conway. This is of great concern since most of the recent human rabies cases have been caused by rabies virus associated with bats,” the agency said in a press release.
The agency is recommending that building owners carefully check their property for holes that might allow bats entry into the buildings.
Any openings larger than a quarter-inch by a half-inch should be caulked and/or sealed. Window screens, chimney caps, and draft-guards beneath doors to attics/storage areas should be utilized, electrical and plumbing holes should be filled with steel wool or caulking, and all doors to the outside should close tightly.
Any other possible outside entry points to the attic or building should be covered. If building/business owners feel that bats are already inhabiting areas of their property, a wildlife removal professional should be contacted to assist with the exclusion process.
Any person bitten by a bat – or if infectious material (such as saliva) from a bat gets into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a fresh wound – wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, seek medical treatment if needed, and report the exposure to the DHEC immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured for rabies testing.
“At this time, we are urging all business owners to be aware of the risk of having bats roosting in your building. Because rabies is a fatal disease, the goal of public health is, first, to prevent human exposure to rabies by education and, second, to prevent the disease by taking immediate action if exposure occurs,” the agency said.
If you have any questions regarding rabies or possible exposure to bats, please contact DHEC’s Environmental Health Services office, during regular working hours, at (843) 915-8833. Your cooperation and concern for the protection of the public is greatly appreciated.