wild mouse

Tularemia

Tularemia is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is typically found in animals, especially rodents, rabbits, and hares.

Transmission

People become infected with tularemia through the bite of infected insects, most commonly ticks and deer flies, or through skin contact with infected animal tissue. The bacteria can also be inhaled when infected animal tissue is broken up into small particles and spread in the air, such as when an infected carcass is mowed over.

How to Dispose of a Dead Animal

Symptoms

rabbitSymptoms of Tularemia Include

  • Skin ulcers
  • Swollen and painful lymph glands
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia

Symptoms can also include

  • Abrupt onset of fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Dry cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bloody sputum
  • Respiratory failure

Treatment

Tularemia is treatable when detected in early stages.

Prevention

Public health officials recommend the following precautions:

  • Stay out of areas inhabited by wild rodents. If you must enter areas frequented by wild rodents, always wear insect repellent that is effective against ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes and contains DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Do not go barefoot in an area where rabbits have died. The tularemia bacteria can persist in the environment for several months after it is detected.
  • Consider wearing a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation in areas where animal die-offs have occurred.
  • Prevent your pets from hunting or eating wild rodents or rabbits. Infected pets, such as cats, may in turn transmit the disease to people.
  • Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels and rabbits; do not feed or handle them.
  • Avoid ticks. The best protection for pets, especially cats, is to keep them indoors. If outdoors with pets, keep them out of heavily wooded areas, which are ideal habitats for ticks.
  • Never touch sick or dead animals with your bare hands. If an animal must be moved, place it in a garbage bag using a long-handled shovel, and place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Avoid drinking unpurified water from streams or lakes; keep your pets from doing the same.
  • Don’t mow over animal carcasses, and consider using a dust mask when doing landscape work.
  • See a health care provider if you become ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes. Tularemia is a treatable illness when diagnosed early.
  • Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.

In the United States, human cases of tularemia have been reported from every state except Hawaii, with the majority occurring in south-central and western states.

Learn More

  • Tularemia (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
  • Ticks (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
  • Boulder County Health Information Line at 303-441-1460

To report an animal die-off in Boulder County, call 303.441.1564.

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