CHAMPAIGN — Health officials are warning pet owners to keep their cats indoors, after more tularemia has turned up in Champaign-Urbana.
Two cats have tested positive for tularemia, also called rabbit fever, which is caused by bacterium found in animals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
There were also five cats diagnosed with tularemia in 2011 and 2012, said Rachella Thompson, communicable-disease investigator at the health district.
Cats can get tularemia when they prey on rabbits or rodents, or become infected by ticks. Symptoms for cats can include high fever, mouth ulcers, enlarged lymph nodes and behavioral changes that include not eating and depression, the health district says.
People can also become infected with tularemia through tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals, ingesting contaminated water, laboratory exposure and inhaling contaminated dusts or aerosols, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms for people include sudden fever, chills, headache, diarrhea, joint pain, muscle aches, cough and weakness, the health district said.
Tularemia is potentially life-threatening, but is generally treated successfully with antibiotics, according to the CDC.
Tips from the health district:
— Don't let your cat hunt outdoors, and make sure your cat is protected from ticks.
— Report any large die-off of rodents or rabbits to local animal control.
— Wear tick protection outdoors.
— Don't mow over sick or dead animals and don't handle wild animals.
— Cook wild game meat thoroughly and use gloves when handling the animal and preparing meat for cooking.
— Take any pet with symptoms of tularemia to the veterinarian.