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What's tularemia? A disease you or your pet could catch

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Minnesota health officials have confirmed this year's first cases of tularemia in the state.

The disease was identified in a rabbit and two cats in Hennepin County, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a Facebook post on Thursday:

https://www.facebook.com/mnhealth/posts/1043590419020748

What is Tularemia?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health:

Tularemia is a disease caused by a bacteria that can affect a wide range of species.

It occurs naturally in the US and can be passed to humans and pets. In Minnesota, ticks and biting flies can also transmit the bacteria.

Reported cases of the disease are rare in Minnesota, with only a handful each year.

Because it is found in wildlife, veterinarians, hunters, trappers, landscapers, farmers, and people who spend time outdoors where ticks and biting flies are common are at higher risk for getting the disease.

Tularemia can be cured by antibiotics. Finding and treating it early can help prevent serious illness.

What are the symptoms?

Signs and symptoms may vary, the Health Department says, but generally start with fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Some people may also experience skin or mouth ulcers, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, cough, and weakness.

The illness may not appear until 3-5 days after exposure to the bacteria, but may be as short as 1 day or take as long as 14 days, officials say.

In Minnesota, tularemia is most often reported in cats

That's because outdoor cats like to hunt small animals that may carry the disease.

Feline symptoms may include high fever, swollen lymph nodes, mouth ulcers, depression, and loss of appetite, the department says.

Zero to three cats are diagnosed on an annual basis, according to Southwest Journal.

Dogs rarely show signs of illness.

The Department of Health's tips to prevent tularemia:

  • Avoid contact with wild animals.
  • Wearing gloves when handling wild animals.
  • Use bug spray to reduce your chances of getting bitten by a fly or tick.
  • Keep cats indoors and don't let your pets hunt small animals like rabbits, hares, squirrels, or other rodents.

https://twitter.com/mnhealth/status/732194455550369792

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