Champaign cat becomes second animal in C-U found to have tularemia

Champaign cat becomes second animal in C-U found to have tularemia

CHAMPAIGN — The bacterial disease tularemia has again turned up, this time in a cat in Champaign.

A potentially deadly disease in both animals and people, tularemia had already been found recently in Urbana in a dead rabbit — plus more dead rabbits were found in an Urbana neighborhood, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

With tularemia in the community, health experts are urging that the public take precautions.

Among them is not allowing pet cats to roam outdoors unattended, to avoid contact with infected rabbits or other animals. Cats are very susceptible to tularemia and can transmit the bacteria to people.

The local health district is also urging everyone to avoid handling any wild animals. Anyone finding a recently-dead rabbit — one that appears to have died within the past 24 to 48 hours — should call the public health district to inquire about having the animal picked up, according to public health Epidemiologist Awais Vaid.

Rabbits that appear to have been dead longer than a day or two can be picked up with a shovel, he said. Wear gloves, double-bag the rabbit and put it in the trash.

Ticks can also be infected with tularemia, so anyone planning to do outdoor work is advised to wear protective clothing and use insect repellent.

In people, tularemia infection can range from asymptomatic to life-threatening. Symptoms typically develop two to 10 days after infection, and can include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache and fatigue, according to the health district.

Symptoms in cats can include high fever, mouth ulcers, lethargy, lack of appetite and enlarged lymph nodes.

Immediate medical attention is advised for both people and pets with suspected tularemia.

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