Rabid Stray Cat Confirmed in Oconee County; One Person Exposed

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) confirmed that a feral cat found near Toccoa Highway and Pickens Road in Westminster, S.C., has tested positive for rabies. One person was exposed and has been referred to their health care provider.

The stray cat was submitted to DHEC’s laboratory for testing on June 4, 2024, and was confirmed to have rabies on June 5, 2024. If you believe you, someone you know, or your pets have come in contact with this feral cat, or another animal that potentially has rabies, please call DHEC’s Public Health Anderson office at (864) 372-3270 during normal business hours (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday) or after hours and on holidays at (888) 847-0902 (Select Option 2).

“To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals plenty of space,” said Terri McCollister, Rabies Program director. “If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer, wildlife control operator or wildlife rehabilitator.”

Stray and feral cats serve as a significant source for rabies exposure. An exposure is defined as direct contact (such as through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth) with saliva or brain/nervous system tissue from an infected animal.

If pets in the area have received any unexplained injuries or have been seen interacting with stray or feral cats in recent weeks, please contact your veterinarian’s office.

It is important to keep pets up to date on their rabies vaccination, which is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect against the disease. This stray cat is the fourth animal in Oconee County to test positive for rabies in 2024. There have been 33 cases of rabid animals statewide this year. Since 2002, South Carolina has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year. In 2023, four of the 78 confirmed rabies cases in South Carolina were in Oconee County.

Contact information for local Public Health offices is available at scdhec.gov/RabiesContacts. For more information on rabies visit scdhec.gov/rabies or cdc.gov/rabies.