SCDHEC RELEASE – Charleston County Stray Cat Potentially Exposes One Person to Rabies

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that one person has been referred to their health care provider after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease.

The potential exposure occurred around Feb. 12, when the victim was scratched after providing care for the stray. The rabid stray cat was initially found in an area west of the City of North Charleston and was described as a small domestic short hair having a gray tabby color. On Feb.15, the cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing and was confirmed to have rabies on Feb.19.

“Rabies is most commonly transmitted via a bite which allows saliva from an infected animal to be introduced into the body of a person or another animal. Transmission is also possible when open wounds or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, etc.) have contact with infected saliva or neural tissue,” said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC’s Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. “If any part of your body may have come in contact with saliva or neural tissue from an animal, immediately wash the exposed area with plenty of soap and water and seek medical attention.”

“To reduce the risk of contracting rabies, be sure to give wild and stray animals their space. If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator,” said Vaughan. It is also important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself, your family, and your pets from this fatal disease.

If you have reason to believe that you, your family members, or your pets came in contact with this cat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Environmental Affairs Charleston office at (843) 953-0150 during normal business hours (M-F, 8:30-5:00) or after-hours at (888) 847-0902.

This cat is the first animal in Charleston County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 16 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2018, three of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Charleston County. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases per year.

Contact information for local Bureau of Environmental Health Services’ offices is available at: For more information on rabies visit: or