The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has referred 11 people to their private health care providers for post-exposure treatment after being potentially exposed to a rabid cat in Richland County near Chapin.

Photo/Robert Herriman
Photo/Robert Herriman

After roaming outdoors, the family cat returned home on May 29, 2015, with visible wounds caused by an unknown animal. The incident was reported to DHEC once the cat began showing symptoms of rabies around June 25. During that period, the cat exposed family members and the veterinary clinic staff who treated the animal. The cat was not current on its rabies vaccine. It was confirmed rabid on June 26.

“Although wild animals contract rabies most often, domestic pets can contract the disease as well,” said Sandra Craig of DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS). “To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild. 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.

“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. “Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.”

Craig says it’s possible that outdoor pets can come in contact with wild animals. Having your pet up-to-date on its rabies vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family from possible exposure to this fatal disease. If a pet returns home with visible wounds that might have been caused by another animal, seek medical treatment for your pet immediately and inform your local DHEC Environmental Quality Control office.

“Time is of the essence,” Craig said, “because a beloved pet might be saved if treated properly and in a timely manner. This is also important in order to protect the people who come in contact with the pet. Informing DHEC enables us to take the proper steps to help reduce further exposure to both people and pets.”

There were 139 confirmed cases of rabies in animals during 2014 in South Carolina. There have been 75 confirmed cases in animals statewide this year. This animal is the fifth to test positive in 2015 from Richland County. There were five animals that tested positive for rabies in that county in 2014.