Five people need to get treated for possible rabies exposure in South Carolina after coming in contact with an infected cat, state public health officials say.
The rabid cat is the fourth animal that tested positive for rabies in Greenville County this year, up from one last year, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Statewide, there have been 127 cases in 2019, up from 100 last year, state data shows.
The total number of cases this year is already twice the 2017 total confirmed rabies infections, DHEC data shows. There were 63 cases in 2017. South Carolina has averaged 108 cases each year since 2003.
The latest cast, in Greer, was confirmed to have rabies on Tuesday after five people were potentially exposed Oct. 25, DHEC said.
“The cat was described as a domestic short-hair with black and white fur,” public health officials said in a press release.
“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,” DHEC’s David Vaughan said in the release. “However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies.”
The state urged people to keep pets up to date on rabies vaccines. Vaccinating pets is “one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against this fatal disease,” DHEC said.
“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.”