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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2015

Cats expose three to rabies in Spartanburg and Lee counties

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Three people have been referred to their health care providers to undergo post-exposure treatment after separate exposures to cats that tested positive for the disease in Spartanburg and Lee counties, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. "About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."

A stray cat exposed two people in the Moore community of Spartanburg County on Jan. 4, 2015. The cat was confirmed rabid on Jan. 7. This animal is the first to test positive in 2015 from Spartanburg County. There were six in that county in 2014.

A rescued stray kitten exposed one person in the Ashwood area of Bishopville in Lee County around Jan. 5, 2015. The kitten was confirmed rabid on Jan. 7. This animal is the first to test positive in 2015 from Lee County. There were none in that county in 2014.

Craig said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease.

"Talk to your veterinarian to determine when you should vaccinate a young puppy or kitten, as well as when to schedule a booster," Craig said. "While puppies and kittens are still very young and not fully immunized, they should be monitored whenever they are outside in order to reduce possible exposure to diseases.

"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC," she said.

In 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina. So far in 2015, there have been four confirmed cases of rabies in animals in the state.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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For media inquiries:
Jim Beasley
Public Information Director
beaslejc@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.7769