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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
September 29, 2011

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Contact: Chris Beuoy

Tularemia Infects Champaign County Cats

Update on Tularemia Cases (posted September 29, 2011)

Two additional cases of tularemia in cats have been documented since September 14. Both cats were brought to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital extremely ill and were humanely euthanized. F. tularensis was subsequently confirmed by the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. One cat was from Champaign, the other from Urbana. Both had spent time outdoors before becoming ill. Indoor-only housecats are generally not considered at risk of contracting this disease.

Please see the fact sheets referenced below for more information about tularemia. This disease is of particular concern because it can be passed between animals and people.

Original Notice (posted September 14, 2011)
Three cats originating from two households were diagnosed with tularemia at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in the past two months. These cats resided within a mile of each other at the eastern edge of Savoy.

Tularemia is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed between animals and people. The bacterium that causes tularemia can be found throughout the United States and most of the world. It is typically carried by rodents and rabbits in the wild and transmitted by ticks.

Tularemia is infrequently seen in cats and is rare in dogs. The occurrence of three cases in a short period and close geographic proximity is unusual, although infections are more likely to occur under hot and dry conditions such as have recently been present.

Indoor housecats are not at risk of contracting this disease.

Public health and veterinary officials are asking animal owners and veterinarians to be on the alert for signs of this disease in animals and people. In cats the signs may include lethargy, loss of appetite, high fever, ulcers in the mouth and possibly enlarged lymph nodes. In people symptoms may include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness. Anyone observing these signs and symptoms should seek appropriate medical care.

Handling an infected carcass is one means by which people may contract tularemia. Incineration of an infected carcass destroys the bacteria.

To safeguard public health, the University of Illinois Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has agreed to provide incineration services to residents of the Savoy area who need to dispose of a dead rodent, rabbit or cat. Carcasses should be picked up with a shovel (not touched) and double-bagged using two good quality, leak-proof plastic bags tied shut. People delivering carcasses will be required to complete a form listing their name, address, and phone number along with the number and types of animals delivered and the site where the carcasses were collected. After the first frost of the season, carcasses will no longer be accepted because the danger from this bacterium will have passed.

Please note: The double-bagged carcass must be brought between 8 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday, to the receiving office of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, 2001 South Lincoln Avenue; enter near the loading dock at the rear (west side) of the building. Do not bring an animal carcass to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Only rabbit, rodent, or cat carcasses and only those from the Savoy area will be accepted.

Members of the public with questions related to bringing a carcass for incineration should call 217- 244-7630. Members of the public with questions related to the possibility that their pet has tularemia should call their veterinarian.

Veterinarians who suspect tularemia in a patient should institute appropriate barrier protection procedures to handle the animal and may contact the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (217-333-1620) for instruction for appropriate sample collection and transport for bacterial culture.

Fact sheets on tularemia: