Crime & Public Safety

Cat potentially exposes 5 to rabies in Jasper County, officials say

What to do if you think you were bitten by a rabid animal

Editor's note: The following video contains graphic content. Peter Costa, with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, explains how to properly clean and treat a wound from a possible rabid animal bite. The video is an excerpt from a video.
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Editor's note: The following video contains graphic content. Peter Costa, with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, explains how to properly clean and treat a wound from a possible rabid animal bite. The video is an excerpt from a video.

Five people were potentially exposed to rabies by a cat in Ridgeland, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The potential exposures happened between June 17 and July 1 when the victims were exposed to the cat during routine care. The cat was described as a medium-sized, gray domestic short-hair cat, according to a DHEC news release.

The cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on July 1 and was confirmed to have rabies on July 2.

The five people who were potentially exposed to the disease have been referred to health care providers.

“Rabies is usually transmitted through a bite, which allows saliva from an infected animal to be introduced into the body of another person or animal,” David Vaughan, director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater Rabies Prevention and Enforcement Divsion, said. “However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies.”

Vaughan said that residents should give wild and stray animals space to reduce the risk of getting rabies.

“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,” he said.

Pets should also be kept up to date on their rabies vaccinations.

The cat is the second animal in Jasper County to test positive for rabies this year. There have been 75 cases of rabid animals state-wide this year.

Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, none of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in the state were in Jasper County.

Anyone concerned that their family or pets have come into contact with the cat or another animal that potentially has rabies should call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs office in Beaufort at 843-846-1030 during normal business hours from Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you believe you came into contact with an animal suspected of having rabies, immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with its saliva or neural tissue with soap and water. Then you should seek medical attention.

To report a bite or exposure on holidays or outside normal business hours, call 888-847-0902.

For more information on rabies, visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

Caitlin Turner is the retail and business reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She has worked in the news industry for five years in both Ohio and South Carolina and loves the Lowcountry life.

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