Barnwell County cat potentially exposes two people to rabies

Barnwell County cat potentially exposes two people to rabies
Barnwell County cat potentially exposes two people to rabies. (Source: WFXG)

BARNWELL COUNTY, SC (WFXG) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported Friday that two people have been referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a cat that tested positive for the disease.

The potential exposures occurred on January 6 when the victims were bitten by a brown and white cat in an area northwest of the City of Barnwell. On January 8, the cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing and was confirmed to have rabies on January 9.

“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. "If any part of your body may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue, be sure to immediately wash the area with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention."

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 came in 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) or after-hours at (888) 847-0902.

The cat is the first animal in Barnwell County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been four confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2018, only one of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Barnwell County. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year.

Contact information for local Bureau of Environmental Health Services' offices is available at: http://www.scdhec.gov/EAOffices. For more information on rabies visit: www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

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