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Oct. 5, 2011

York County residents advised to stay away from wild animals; vaccinate pets against rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A York County man who was exposed to rabies by a stray cat is under the care of a physician after the animal tested positive for rabies, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

"The man was bitten by the cat while attempting to examine the animal’s injured paw," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. “As he tried to turn the cat onto its back for a closer look, the cat bit the man’s hand.”

Ferguson said once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the man is receiving preventive inoculations.

According to Ferguson, anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain.

“About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year," Ferguson said, “with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.

"Therefore, to protect both the pets and their owners, residents should make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.

"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," she said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."

This is the eight confirmed rabid animal in York County in 2011. So far this year, there have been 86 confirmed cases in animals in the state. In 2010, there were 13 rabid animals confirmed in York County and 106 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in South Carolina.

For more information about rabies, see DHEC's webpage at: or contact DHEC’s York County Environmental Health Office (803) 909-7379. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's webpage about rabies can be found at:


For more information:
Jim Beasley – (803) 898-7769
Email –