According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control a Union County woman was bitten by her cat and is now in the care of a doctor after the pet tested positive for rabies.
"The woman was bitten several times by the cat, which had not received its rabies vaccination," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health yesterday.
Ferguson says anyone bitten, scratched or otherwise exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal must undergo immediate measures to stop the virus from reaching the brain.
Once the rabies virus reaches the brain, the disease is fatal to humans and animals, so the Union County woman is receiving preventive inoculations.
"Avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," Ferguson said. "About 400 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures from being bitten or scratched by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well.
"Therefore, to protect both the pets and their owners, we strongly encourage residents to make sure their pets are regularly vaccinated against the disease. State law requires that all pets be vaccinated against rabies.
"If you think you have been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the affected area with plenty of soap and water," she said. "Then be sure to get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC."
This is the first confirmed rabid animal in Union County in 2010. In 2009, there was one rabid animal confirmed in the county. In 2009, there were 152 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in the state. So far this year, there have been six confirmed cases in animals in South Carolina.
For more information about rabies, see DHEC's Web page at: http://www.scdhec.gov/rabies or contact DHEC∂s Union County Environmental
Health office at (429-1690.