Home Health Urgent warning to cat owners about resurgence of rare deadly disease: Cases triple in parts of US

Urgent warning to cat owners about resurgence of rare deadly disease: Cases triple in parts of US

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Cats can get tularemia when they come into contact with infected rabbits, mice, or other small mammals. They can then transfer it to humans using a scratch (stock)

Cat owners are being warned about the resurgence of a rare and deadly bacterial infection they can contract from their pet, as cases in the United States have tripled.

Minnesota officials are very concerned about the disease, called tularemia, after seeing a three-fold increase in infections, with 21 cases in the state in 2023 compared to an average of seven. And this year they have already recorded many more.

Cases are also rising across the country, with the United States seeing a 60 percent increase in infections over the decade through 2019. Arkansas, the country’s hotspot, records 46 cases per year on average.

Experts say increased contact with wild animals, including among pets, is behind the increase, but they say more testing and awareness about the disease could also be driving the increase.

Felines are common carriers of tularemia, also called rabbit fever, and can contract it when they catch wild animals such as rabbits and mice. Cats can then transmit the disease to their owners through bites or scratches, causing blisters and rashes that can lead to life-threatening infections such as sepsis.

Cats can get tularemia when they come into contact with infected rabbits, mice, or other small mammals. They can then transfer it to humans using a scratch (stock)

The map above shows the cases of tularemia recorded in each US state during the years 2011 to 2019.

The map above shows the cases of tularemia recorded in each US state during the years 2011 to 2019.

Dogs can also get the infection, although it is less likely because they do not usually hunt small mammals. The disease can also be transmitted by bites from ticks and deer flies, which contract it by biting infected animals.

Tularemia is not transmitted from person to person.

In a more unusual route of infection, one of the patients in Minnesota contracted the disease this month after cutting into a dead animal and breathing in the aerosolized bacteria.

Another became infected after being bitten by a stray cat.

Patients suffer from fever five days after infection, which can then progress to a variety of symptoms.

If the disease is not properly diagnosed and treated, it can lead to sepsis, a serious, life-threatening infection in which an overreaction of the immune system causes organs to begin to fail.

In cats, the disease is serious, killing up to 60 percent of felines that do not receive treatment. Warning signs include bloating, anorexia, and extreme exhaustion.

The infection is treated with antibiotics such as streptomycin and gentamicin, powerful drugs that are also used to treat tuberculosis and heart infections.

About 200 people get tularemia each year in the United States, mainly in the south-central and western states.

The Illinois Department of Health says that between five and 15 percent of people who do not receive treatment for their infections do not survive.

But among those who receive antibiotics, they say the mortality rate is less than one percent and few deaths have been reported.

Cats, both wild and domestic, can transmit numerous diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans.

Cats, both wild and domestic, can transmit numerous diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans.

Officials said the increase “is likely due in part to increased recognition and testing by veterinarians.”

Warning about the disease, officials said: ‘It is important for pet owners to be aware of this disease in their pets because it is possible for a person to become infected as well.

“Pet owners should be aware that cats, especially, can become seriously ill with a high fever and quickly succumb to the illness.”

Cats are common carriers of a variety of diseases, including rabies, plague, and sporotrichosis, a fungus that can infect the lungs.

In many of these conditions, felines typically do not show symptoms until the condition is advanced, meaning people may not realize that their cat is infected and could have transferred a disease to humans.

Veterinarians recommend preventing cats from hunting and having contact with wild animals to limit the risk of infection.

Owners should also use tick preventive medications for cats, and some veterinarians suggest people keep their felines inside at all times.

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