Infectious diseases, both common and rare, on the rise

Raccoons can also be vectors of the rabies virus, transmitting the virus to humans and other animals. Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reports from across the country about infectious diseases — including some believed to have been eradicated — remind veterinary teams to remain vigilant when diagnosing patients.

In a Sept. 8 issue of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dr. Michael White of White Veterinary Hospital in Ennis, Mont., reported his second case of plague.

“This is a reminder that it is not just a Dark Age-type disease,” said White in the article. “I wouldn’t call it prevalent, but it’s out there.”

White had reported a case of tularemia in May in a different cat. The diseases are both found in rodents and their infected fleas in Montana.

"(The cat) could have caught (a rodent) and ate it, and a flea on the rodent could have bit him," White said of the plague case, in the article.

Also in September, a report on warned of an increase in two potentially fatal viral infections in dogs and other domestic animals — Leptospirosis and coon hound paralysis — in Pennsylvania.

These diseases are found in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, opossum and deer, and can be transferred to pets through direct — or even indirect — contact with an infected animal.

Meanwhile, Nebraska is experiencing a near record reporting of rabies cases, according to a Press & Dakotan online report.

The number of rabies cases has reached a 20-year high, and veterinarians and health officials are warning people to be on the lookout for rabid animals.

Dr. Melissa Girard of Grand Island, Neb., a veterinarian, is at the heart of the state’s outbreak with nearly half of the 94 cases having been diagnosed in her community.

Normally, she said in the Press & Dakotan article, “three or four pet owners may need to have their cat or dog’s vaccination for rabies boosted because of exposure to a rabid animal.” This year she has faced more than 12 dozen cases of exposed pets needing a booster.

More information about infectious diseases can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine website.