COLUMBIA, S.C. - Four people have been referred to their health care provider for consultation after being exposed to rabies by a stray cat from Abbeville County that tested positive for the disease, the Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.
The exposures occurred on March 6, 2015, and the cat tested positive for rabies on March 10.
"Rabies is a threat to humans, pets and wild animals," said Sandra Craig of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). "All pet owners should have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated regularly as required by state law. It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family and you that pet vaccinations are kept up-to-date. Families should also be aware that stray animals are almost always unvaccinated.
"Unvaccinated pets that are exposed to the rabies virus must be quarantined or euthanized," Craig said. "Rabies is fatal once the virus reaches the brain, yet the heartache of losing a pet to this disease can be avoided. DHEC-sponsored rabies clinics are offered across the state by local veterinarians each spring, and low-cost vaccines are available every day at local veterinary clinics."
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 contract the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.
"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," Craig said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
During 2014, there were 139 confirmed cases of animal rabies in South Carolina. There have been 27 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the second to test positive in 2015 from Abbeville County. There were two that tested positive in that county in 2014.
DHEC-sponsored rabies vaccination clinics are now underway. Vaccination is the best way to help protect your pet and your family from this disease. To find a clinic near you, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/Health/DiseasesandConditions/InfectiousDiseases/InsectAnimalBorne/Rabies/Clinics/. For additional information on rabies, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies, or contact your local DHEC BEHS office at http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/DHECLocations/.
CDC's rabies webpages can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/rabies.
Public Information Director