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May 4, 2018

Florence County cat potentially exposes two people to rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that two people have contacted their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a cat that tested positive for the disease.

On April 27, 2018, a male cat described as being small and with gray hair scratched at least one of the victims. The incident occurred on the outskirts of Effingham, in Florence County. The cat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory on April 30 and was confirmed to have rabies the same day.

"Rabies is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a person or animal," said David Vaughan, Director, DHEC Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. "This usually occurs through a bite; however, saliva contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies."

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space. 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," said Vaughan.

Keeping your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccination is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets from this fatal disease.

If you think you may have been exposed to an animal with rabies, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to your local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, please call the DHEC after-hours service number (888) 847-0902.

The cat is the first animal in Florence County to test positive for rabies in 2018. There have been 23 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2017, one of the 63 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina was in Florence County.

Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC's interactive map: For more information on rabies visit: or


DHEC Media Relations
(803) 898-7769