BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - DHEC officials say a stray cat in Beaufort County may have exposed multiple people to rabies.
"The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that multiple persons have been referred to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease," DHEC officials said.
According to a press release, the stray cat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on Tuesday, and was confirmed to have rabies on Wednesday.
"This cat was described as being black in color, with medium-length hair, and having a small build; it also had white accents on its chest and face," officials said."The cat was found near Cry Babies Tavern located on Boundary Street in Beaufort. We have reason to believe that the stray cat had kittens that live near Cry Babies Tavern. We cannot confirm if the kittens have rabies as they have not been caught or submitted for testing. The Department is working with local animal control to investigate the whereabouts of the kittens."
Authorities are asking if you or anyone you know may have been exposed to this cat or its kittens, to get medical attention and report the incident to the Beaufort Environmental Health Services' office at (843) 846-1030 during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM).
To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number at (888) 847-0902.
"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 rabies prevention.
"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.
According to DHEC, 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.
This stray cat is the fifth animal in Beaufort County to test positive for rabies in 2018.
There have been 39 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, 5 of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Beaufort County.