South Carolina health officials reported today that three people have been referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a feral cat that tested positive for the disease.

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The potential exposure occurred Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 when the victims were attacked by a feral cat on a property near University Boulevard in North Charleston. The cat was submitted to the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) laboratory for testing Nov. 6 and was confirmed to have rabies Nov. 7.

“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 DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division.

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It’s important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease.

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space,” Vaughan said. “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.”

This cat is the 15th animal in Charleston County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 130 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, three of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Charleston County.