COLUMBIA — One person has started post exposure treatment after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported.
On July 26, the victim was attacked on their property while trying to provide care for the stray cat. The incident occurred on the north side of the Town of Pickens. The cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory on July 27 and confirmed to have rabies the next day.
Free-roaming or feral cats may carry diseases, like rabies, that can be transferred from animals to people. Feeding feral cats often attracts other wild animals, which are more likely to carry diseases. These animals often do not receive the preventative care necessary to control diseases and consequently pose a potential health threat to people and other domestic animals. The more interaction people and pets have with wild and stray/feral animals, the greater their risk of exposure to diseases like rabies.
“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space,” said Sandra Craig, Director, DHEC Food Protection and Rabies Prevention Division. “If you see an animal in need, avoid handling it and contact your local animal control office or wildlife rehabilitation facility.”
“Rabies is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a person or animal,” said Craig. “This usually occurs through a bite; however, saliva contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies.”
If a person or pet comes into contact with an unknown, stray, or wild animal and there is a possibility of rabies transmission, the incident should be reported to the local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
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.
The stray cat is the first animal in Pickens County to test positive for rabies in 2017. There have been 37 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2016, six of the 94 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Pickens County.
Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC’s interactive map: http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. For more information on rabies visit: www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.