3 people potentially exposed to rabies by stray cat in Lexington

Published: May. 16, 2019 at 12:59 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - Three people have been referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat in near downtown Lexington.

The incident occurred on May 10 when victims were attacked by a stray cat described as being white with short hair and grey marking. The stray cat was taken to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) on May 13 for testing and was confirmed to have rabies on May 14.

“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,” Director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division David Vaughan said.

This cat is the ninth animal in Lexington County to test positive for rabies this year. There has also been 52 statewide cases of rabid animals this year. The state has averaged 108 positive cases per year since 2013 and, in 2018, seven of the 100 confirmed rabies cases were found in Lexington County.

DHEC urges pet owners to keep their pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations as it is the easiest and most effective way to protect people and animals from 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," Vaughan said.

DHEC urges anyone who believes they or their family members or pets have come into contact with a potentially infectious animal to call their Environmental Affairs Columbia office at 803-896-0620 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday). Be sure to immediately wash any part of your body that may have come into contact with saliva or neural tissue with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention. To report a bite or exposure on holidays or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number at 888-847-0902.

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