New Jersey cat tests tularemia positive

Samples from a New Jersey cat tested positive for Francisella tularensis (tularemia) by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on Wednesday, September 29. The indoor/outdoor cat presented to the submitter with a high fever and acute lethargy a day after being found eating on a wild rabbit carcass. Tularemia was suspected by the submitter based on case history, progressive fever, development of oral ulcers, and lymphadenopathy.

A wide range of animals are susceptible to infection with the bacterium, F. tularensis, including rodents, lagomorphs, carnivores, sheep, horses, primates, and humans. The disease can be contracted through various routes including respiratory, oral, and percutaneously through ticks. Rabbits and ticks are responsible for the majority tularemia cases; for this reason, the condition is commonly known as “rabbit fever.”

Tularemia is a zoonotic disease (disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans), and is classified as a select agent. Select agents include bacterial agents such as Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), Plague (Yersinia pestis) and Tularemia (F. tularensis) are defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as “Biological agents and toxins that have been determined to have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, to animal and plant health, or to animal and plant products.” Samples suspected to contain a select agent must be handled with additional precautions, particularly when collecting, shipping, and testing the sample. At the laboratory, we perform extraction protocols in our biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) suite and don additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as double gloves and respiratory protection.

Please visit our test page for sample submission information.