Tularemia is a bacterial disease that often affects wildlife, most often causing die-offs of rabbits, beavers, and small rodents. Tularemia can also spread to humans and can cause serious clinical symptoms in humans and animals. People can help prevent infection by using insect repellent, washing hands, giving wildlife their space, and only drinking treated water.
General Tularemia Information
Infections have been reported in all US states, except Hawaii.
The major reservoirs for tularemia are:
Small mammals (e.g., mice, voles)
Infected animals and animal carcasses can also serve as reservoirs for the disease.
Certain animals are particularly susceptible to the bacteria and can experience die-offs when the population becomes infected, such as:
Other small rodents
Humans can become infected with tularemia several different ways:
From the bite of an infected insect
Contact with infected animals or carcasses
Eating or drinking contaminated food or water
Inhaling contaminated dusts or aerosols, particularly from landscaping activities such as moving over a carcass or working in the dirt.
Animals and insects become infected with tularemia through bites of infected insects and ticks, and contact with other infected animals.
Signs and Symptoms
Human symptoms of tularemia can include:
Fever and chills
Headaches and muscle aches
Open sore and swelling at the site of a tick bite or swelling lymph nodes
Humans infected with tularemia usually see symptoms 3 to 5 days after exposure to the bacterium but it can take as long as 14 days. Tularemia symptoms in animals include lethargy, in-coordination and sudden death.
Prevention and Control
To lower your risk of tularemia while visiting the parks:
Use insect repellent containing DEET
Treat clothing and gear with repellent containing permethrin
Wash your hands often, and never touch a dead animal
Only drink boiled or properly treated water
Report sick or dead animals to park staff.
Testing and Treatment
If you have the symptoms of tularemia, promptly seek medical care.
Most cases of tularemia can be treated successfully with antibiotics. If not treated with appropriate antibiotics, the disease can rarely be fatal.
One Health and Tularemia
Although tularemia is a native disease that circulates naturally, human impacts on the environment can affect wildlife habitats and promote the transmission and spread of many zoonotic diseases.
By protecting natural environments and their ecological properties and processes, and by appreciating wildlife from a distance, we can help protect ourselves from tularemia – this is One Health in action.
Biological Resources Division and Office of Public Health
1201 Oakridge Drive, Suite 200
Fort Collins, CO 80525