DHEC: Cat exposed 6 Charleston Co. residents to rabies

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Five adults and one teen in Charleston County have been exposed to a cat that tested positive for rabies, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Wednesday.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "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."

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

"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."

According to Ferguson, this is the first confirmed case of animal rabies in South Carolina this year. There were 137 confirmed animal cases statewide during 2012.

DHEC spokesperson Lindsey Evans said the department would not be releasing exactly where the cat was found, since the case was taken care of and is not an ongoing issue.

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