One person may have been exposed to rabies by a stray cat in Newberry County, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).

DHEC says the stray cat was seen making unusual sounds on July 24 in Silverstreet. When approached, DHEC says the cat became aggressive and scratched the victim.

The next day, DHEC says the cat tested positive for rabies at DHEC's laboratory the next day. The victim has been referred for medical evaluation, according to DHEC.

The cat is the second animal to test positive for rabies in Newberry County this year. There have been 36 confirmed cases of animal rabies statewide this year. In 2016, six of the 94 rabies cases in South Carolina were in Newberry County.

To reduce the risk of getting rabies, DHEC recommends always giving wild and stray animals their space. "If you see an animal in need, avoid handling it, and contact your local animal control office or wildlife rehabilitation facility," says Sandra Craig, director, of DHEC's Food Protection and Rabies Prevention Division.

"Rabies is transmitted when saliva or neural tissue of an infected animal is introduced into the body of a person or animal," said Craig. "This usually occurs through a bite; however, saliva contact with open wounds or areas such as the eyes, nose, or mouth could also potentially transmit rabies," says Craig.

If a person or pet comes into contact with an unknown, stray, or wild animal and there is a possibility of rabies transmission, the incident should be reported to the local DHEC Bureau of Environmental Health Services (BEHS) office during normal business hours (Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM). To report a bite or exposure on holidays and/or times outside of normal business hours, call the DHEC After-Hours Service number (888) 847-0902.

Residents can contact their local Bureau of Environmental Health Services office using DHEC's interactive map. For more information on rabies in South Carolina, click here.