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Lexington County Stray Cat Potentially Exposes Three People to RabiesThe Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported today that three people have been referred to their health care providers after being potentially exposed to rabies by a stray cat that tested positive for the disease.The potential exposures occurred on May 10 when the victims were attacked by a stray cat near downtown Lexington. The cat was described as a white domestic short haired cat with grey markings. The stray cat was submitted to DHEC's laboratory for testing on May 13 and 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," said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division.It's also important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, as this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against this 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."If you believe that you, family members or pets have come into contact with this cat or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Columbia office at 803-896-0620during 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.This cat is the ninth animal in Lexington County to test positive for rabies in 2019. There have been 52 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2013, South Carolina has averaged approximately 108 positive cases a year. In 2018, seven of the 100 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Lexington County.Contact information for local Bureau of Environmental Health Services’ offices is available at www.scdhec.gov/EAOffices. For more information on rabies visit www.scdhec.gov/rabies or www.cdc.gov/rabies.