May 2021: spike in bobcat fever in middle Georgia, USA
Five counties of Georgia in particular have seen a significant increase in cases of cystauxzoonis a.k.a. bobcat fever which is caused by a protozoan and not bacteria. A bacterial infection can be cured with antibiotics but this disease is deadly to cats with more than 70% of infected domestic cat dying unless they receive urgent veterinary care. The disease results in protozoal sepsis. There is a systemic inflammatory response and the symptoms are: difficulty breathing, jaundice, anaemia, fever, lack of appetite and lethargy. The report is from the Uni of Georgia.
|The lone star tick which carries the parasite from bobcat to domestic cat which kills the domestic cat very quickly. Image in public domain.|
Death can occur in less than three days without prompt veterinary treatment. Prevention is the key. The five counties concerned are: Baldwin, Greene, Hancock, Jones and Putnam. They are considered to be ground zero for this disease at this time. It's essential for cat owners to be proactive and the primary way to do this is to keep cats safe by keeping them indoors and away from ticks. The experts strongly recommend that cats remain indoors under the circumstances.
Lone Star ticks pick up the disease by feeding on bobcats and then pass it on to domestic cats when they feed on them. The bobcats are unaffected. If it is impossible to keep a domestic cat indoors 24/7 cat owners can use "an effective acaricidal product" but it must be used according to the instructions. It is critical not to overdose because it can kill your cat. An alternative would be to think in the long term of building a cat enclosure or catio as a good compromise between safety and environmental stimulation.
Humans and dogs are not susceptible to bobcat fever. A domestic cat contracting the disease can pass it on to other cats in a multi-cat household. If cats are allowed outside it's important that the cat owner carries out a daily tick check. You can do this by running your fingers through the cat's coat checking particularly carefully around the head and neck and at joints. You can click this link by looking at how to remove ticks. It is very important to not leave part of the tick inside the skin because it can cause irritation and as I recall an infection. Removed ticks should be refrigerated and dated for a month to allow them to be tested if the animal falls ill.
Cat owners should not underestimate the disease as it is described as "a nasty disease. Protection is necessary and early treatment is crucial"- Nancy Hinkle, UGA Extension veterinary entomologist.