DHEC: Two Barnwell residents hospitalized for possible rabies exposure

January 12, 2019

The Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Friday two Barnwell residents have potentially been exposed to rabies by a cat that tested positive for the disease.

The potential exposures occurred Jan. 6, when the victims were bitten by a brown and white cat in an area northwest of the City of Barnwell, according to a release.

On Tuesday, the cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing and was confirmed to have rabies.

“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,” said David Vaughan, director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “However, saliva or neural tissue contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies.”

DHEC reported the two individuals have been referred to their health care providers for testing and possible treatment.

The cat is the first animal in Barnwell County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been four confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2018, only one of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Barnwell County.

Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year.

“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. If any part of your body may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue, be sure to immediately wash the area with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention.”

The agency also reminds residents it is important to keep pets up to date on rabies vaccinations, which is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family and your pets from this fatal disease.

Anyone with reason to believe they, their family members or their pets came in contact with this cat or another animal that potentially has rabies, are asked to call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Aiken office at 803-642-1637 during normal business hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or after-hours at 888-847-0902.

For information about DHEC, visit scdhec.gov/EAOffices. For more information on rabies, visit scdhec.gov/rabies or cdc.gov/rabies/.

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