S.D.: Tularemia reported in Black Hills area
July 28, 2015
A state health official says tularemia is on the rise, with seven cases reported in the Black Hills area since June.
"Tularemia is a fairly uncommon but potentially severe disease that can be fatal," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. "People can be exposed when they come in contact with infected insects and animals, particularly rabbits, rodents and cats."
Six of South Dakota's cases were adults over the age of 50 and one was a child under 5. Five of the seven were hospitalized. Kightlinger noted that one of the cases had direct contact with a pet cat that tested positive for tularemia.
Sometimes called rabbit fever, tularemia most commonly results in a sore developing where the bacteria enter the body, accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes. In severe cases, it can cause fever and a pneumonia-like illness, which can be fatal.
To reduce the risk of tularemia, Kightlinger encouraged people to use insect repellants when outside with animals and to take precautions such as wearing gloves and double-bagging when handling and disposing of dead animals. Animal owners, particularly cat owners, should watch their animals for signs of illness and contact their veterinarian as soon as possible if unusual signs develop. Using tick and insect repellants on pets and livestock also helps prevent transmission of tularemia and other vector-borne diseases. Cat owners should consult their veterinarians about appropriate repellants as some labeled for use on dogs may be toxic for cats.
"Especially during this season of camping and outdoor recreation, people, including Rally-goers, should avoid or take special precautions with rabbits, prairie dogs, gophers and voles," said Kightlinger.
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Other states in the region, including North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado are also reporting increased cases.
Learn more about tularemia and its prevention on the department's website at doh.sd.gov/diseases/infectious/diseasefacts/Tularemia.aspx, the SDSU Extension site at http://www.sdstate.edu/vs/extension/zoonotic/upload/Tularemia-in-Animals-in-South-Dakota.pdf, or the CDC site at http://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/index.html.
–State of South Dakota