State health officials have sent 14 people in Anderson County to their health care provider after they came into contact with a kitten that tested positive for rabies.
“This is a continuing investigation and it involves the quarantining of numerous pets,” said Sandra Craig, of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services.
DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley said the kitten had been injured by a wild animal. The person who rescued the kitten was potentially exposed to the virus, as were other individuals who cared for the kitten, he said.
“All persons who came into contact with the kitten after the kitten was capable of spreading the rabies virus are considered to have been exposed as are any animals which may have come into contact with the kitten,” he said.
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“Department staff have referred all persons known to have been in contact with the kitten to their health care providers for consultation. Department medical consultants have been made available to the healthcare providers so that the best possible decision can be made for each individual's specific situation.”
Any animals known to have been exposed are being addressed on a case by case basis, he said, adding that several are under quarantine.
Unvaccinated pets and strays can spread the rabies virus after they have been infected, he said.
And an exposure doesn’t have to be a bite or a scratch. It can occur when people or animals come into contact with infected saliva or neural tissue, he said. Exposure to saliva can occur during play or while providing care to an infected animal.
“We are continuing to investigate the situation to identify other persons and animals that may have been in contact with the kitten,” Beasley said.
Rabies is a virus spread by the saliva of an infected animal.
It attacks the central nervous system and is almost always fatal without treatment.
South Carolina law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies, Craig said.
Unvaccinated pets exposed to rabies must be quarantined or euthanized.
“It is extremely important to the health of your pet, your family and you that pet vaccinations are kept up to date,” Craig said.
“Talk to your veterinarian to determine when you should vaccinate a young puppy or kitten, as well as when to schedule a booster.
“While puppies and kittens are still very young and not fully immunized, they should be monitored whenever they are outside in order to reduce possible exposure to diseases.”
The state sponsors rabies clinics around the state each spring, and low-cost vaccines are available at local veterinary clinics, according to DHEC.
For more on rabies, go to www.scdhec.gov/rabies.