DHEC Enlists Teachers and Students to Help Celebrate International Bat Week
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 24, 2022
COLUMBIA, S.C. ― The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is celebrating International Bat Week, which runs from Oct. 24-31, by asking teachers to encourage students across the Palmetto State to participate in a drawing contest. While doing so, teachers are asked to educate their students about bats and the benefits they offer to our everyday lives.
The drawing should demonstrate what to do if they, a friend or family member, or a pet, finds a bat or has direct contact with a bat. Additionally, members of the South Carolina Bat Working Group, including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), have compiled a list of events being held in celebration of the week. The events list and more information about the drawing contest are available on DHEC’s webpage. Winners will be featured throughout the week on DHEC’s social media pages.
“This year’s campaign to engage students is another opportunity to educate and spread awareness about bats, who unfortunately, have a generally bad reputation. We are excited to receive the entries and share the winners during bat week,” said Terri McCollister, DHEC’s Rabies Program Team Leader. “While bats are one of the more recognizable rabies vector species that can carry and transmit the rabies virus, not every bat is infected with rabies. Bats are an important part of South Carolina's ecosystems. They deserve a healthy degree of respect just like all wild animals.”
Bats are beneficial mammals that help humans by eating thousands of mosquitoes and other troublesome insects every day. However, they are known carriers of rabies which can be fatal but is also preventable with treatment before the onset of symptoms. Raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats can spread rabies to people and pets. It’s not always possible, however, to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bat, because their teeth are small, and bites may go unnoticed. It should be assumed a person or pet has been potentially 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 cognitive capacity (intoxicated or disability) have been left unattended; or
- they have been in direct contact with a bat.
DHEC advises that bats involved with potential exposures should not be handled or allowed to escape an enclosed area. Once a bat is released, it can’t be tested for rabies which makes it difficult to know whether a potentially bitten person or pet has been exposed to the rabies virus. Contact a wildlife control operator or visit the DHEC Bat webpage to learn how to safely capture a bat, so it can be tested for rabies.
If you believe a person or animal has come in contact with a bat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call your local DHEC Environmental Affairs Office. For more information, visit DHEC’s pages on rabies education.