COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that one person has been referred to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease.
The potential exposure occurred on Dec 18 when the victim was bitten by a black and white stray cat on their property northwest of New Ellenton in Aiken, SC. The cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on Dec 19 and was confirmed to have rabies on Dec 20.
“Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite which allows saliva from an infected animal to be introduced into the body of a person or another animal. However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division.
“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space. If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator,” said Vaughan.
It is also important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets from this fatal disease.
If you have reason to believe that you, your family members, or your pets have come into contact with this cat, or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Aiken office at (803) 642-1637 during normal business hours (M-F, 8:30-5:00). Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention. To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number (888) 847-0902.
This cat is the ninth animal in Aiken County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 146 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, four of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Aiken County.
Contact information for local Bureau of Environmental Health Services offices is available at www.scdhec.gov/EAoffices. For more information on rabies visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.