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Tularemia Identified in 6 Minnesota Cats in 2018
Minnesota Ag Connection - 12/06/2018

The Board of Animal Health issued a veterinary alert to Minnesota veterinarians in August, when Minnesota's fourth case of tularemia was reported in a domestic cat. Since then, two more cats have been diagnosed with the disease and one confirmed human case has been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) year-to-date. In 2017, 11 animal (7 cats and 4 rabbits) and 6 human cases were reported.

These additional tularemia cases serve as a reminder to veterinarians that cats with access to the outdoors, particularly those that hunt small mammals, including rabbits, are at a higher risk for contracting this disease.

Tularemia is also a zoonotic disease and can be spread to people through a bite or scratch from an infected animal or from handling contaminated objects or infected animals. To report suspect or confirmed cases, or if you have questions regarding this disease, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414 or 877-676-5414.

On Sept. 18, tularemia was confirmed in a 12-year-old neutered male, indoor/outdoor cat in Scott County. On Sept. 12 the cat's owner noticed that he lacked energy and was not eating normally. The cat was examined by a veterinarian on September 17 who noted a high fever, an ulcer in the cat's mouth and enlarged lymph nodes under the cat's jaw. The owner reported that the cat had an affinity for hunting small animals, primarily rabbits.

On Sept. 18, the owner elected humane euthanasia and necropsy, performed at the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MVDL), those results supported a suspected case of tularemia. A sample from the spleen was cultured, and Francisella tularensis was confirmed on September 20 by the Minnesota Department of Health Public Health Laboratory (MDH-PHL). The Minnesota Department of Health determined that the risk of human exposure to persons in the home, at the clinic and at the laboratory was low and made no treatment recommendations.

Separately, on Oct. 8, tularemia was confirmed in a 1-year-old, indoor/outdoor female cat who enjoyed hunting mice, birds and rabbits. The cat was first noted to be ill on October 5 when she presented to a veterinarian with a high fever and swollen lymph nodes. She was hospitalized from Oct. 6 to 8 during which her condition worsened and she developed oral ulcers. She was euthanized on Sept. 8. Necropsy and tissue cultures performed by the MVDL, supported tularemia and were confirmed as Francisella tularensis at the MDH-PHL. The Minnesota Department of Health determined that the risk of human exposure to persons in the home, at the clinic and at the laboratory was low and made no treatment recommendations.

For more information regarding this disease please refer to the Minnesota Department of Health's website or the Board's latest reportable disease of the month bulletin.

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