COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — Six people and six stray cats were recently exposed to a rabid cat in Marlboro County, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The gray long-haired cat that tested positive was found near Salem and Jackson roads in Bennettsville, DHEC said. It was submitted to a DHEC lab for testing on Monday, and the results were confirmed on Tuesday.

DHEC did not release any additional information about the people or cats that were exposed, but a spokesperson said that anyone who has been exposed to a wild, stray or domestic animal should seek medical attention.

According to DHEC, it is the first instance in Marlboro County this year of a cat testing positive for rabies. The county had one of the state’s 83 confirmed rabies cases in 2022.

So far in 2023, there have been 11 confirmed cases in South Carolina. DHEC said the state has averaged approximately 148 positive cases a year since 2002.

“The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and can be transmitted through a bite, scratch, broken skin, and the mucous membranes of your eyes, nose, or mouth, said Terri McCallister, a rabies program team leader for DHEC. “Contact your local Environmental Affairs office for further guidance.” 

All animal bites, scratches and exposures to potentially rabid animals should be reported to DHEC.

Anyone who has been exposed or potentially exposed to a rabid animal is asked to call DHEC’s environmental affairs office in Florence at 843-661-4825 during normal business hours, which are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or after hours and on holidays at 888-847-0902 and select Option 2.

DHEC also reminded people that it is 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 the disease.”

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.