6 people exposed to rabies-positive cat in Charleston County

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) - Five adults and one teen in Charleston County have been exposed to a cat that tested positive for rabies, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported on Wednesday.

This is the first confirmed case of animal rabies in South Carolina this year, officials reported. There were 137 confirmed animal cases statewide during 2012.

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, we recommend that people avoid wild animals acting tame and tame animals acting wild," said Sue Ferguson of DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health. "About 275 South Carolinians must undergo preventive treatment for rabies every year, with most exposures coming from bites or scratches by a rabid or suspected rabid animal. Wild animals carry the disease most often, but domestic pets can contract rabies as well."

Ferguson said state law requires pet owners to have their pets regularly vaccinated against the disease.

"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."