CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A deadly, infectious bacterial disease is showing up in Central Illinois and it’s already killed two animals recently.
Two cases of tularemia have been confirmed in a rabbit and a cat in the last two weeks. Both died from it. The Champaign- Urbana Public Health District is warning people to watch out because it can spread very easily and can kill both animals and humans.
Many don’t even know what it is. Pet owner Parker Perrero says, “I’ve never heard of it. I didn’t know it was a thing.”
Tularemia mainly affects animals like rodents, rabbits and cats. Ticks also carry it. But humans and other animals can get it too if bitten or just by touch.
Awais Vaid works for Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. He says, “Do not touch dead animals either whether you know or do not know it. If you have to touch it or dispose of it, the recommendation is to use a shovel, make sure you have gloves and double bag.”
There are other ways of getting it. Vaid says, “If you are mowing your lawn or if you are hunting and skinning one of those animals, the spores will go in the air and you can inhale them and you get the more serious form of tularemia which is the respiratory form and that can also lead to death.”
The key is to treat it quickly with antibiotics. While it’s not common in humans, there have been a couple hundred cases per year in the U.S.
Possible symptoms include ulcers or a fever.
Perrero says, “That’s concerning just because I take my dogs out on walks all the time and he’ll just try to eat everything.”
It’s prompting some to keep a keen eye out for themselves and their pets.
Pet owner Daniel Nasset says, “I do care about my dog. I’ll have to keep a closer eye on him as long as this is going around.”
If you do find a dead animal, call the health district to report it. Depending on the information you give them, they may come out and pick up the animal for you.
In 2014 one person in Central Illinois died after being infected with tularemia. Last year, one human case was reported. That person was treated and is ok. So far no human cases have been reported this year.