Tularemia (Rabbit Fever)



Tularemia in a rabbit liver
Tularemia in a rabbit liver
James Runnigen, U.S. Geological Survey

Commonly Infected Wildlife

Rabbits, muskrats, beavers, any mammal.

Is This Animal Infected?

Affected animals may appear in good body condition, yet be sick or near death.

An enlarged liver or spleen is common.

Tiny pale spots may be seen on the liver.

Can I Get It?

Yes, from multiple pathways: bites from infected ticks or biting flies; bites or scratches from infected wildlife; contact of eyes, nose, mouth, or open wound with meat, water, feces, urine, or body parts of infected animals; ingestion of meat from infected animals that has not been cooked thoroughly; drinking water contaminated by an infectious animal; or breathing in dust from contaminated pelts and soil.

How bad can it get?

Tularemia can be fatal; early treatment reduces severity.

Symptoms in humans

  • Symptoms can appear up to 14 days after infection and often start as flu-like illness.
  • Additional symptoms depend on the route of exposure:
  • Ingestion of contaminated food or water: diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Tick or fly bite, or contamination of open wound: skin ulcers at site of bite and swollen, painful lymph nodes.
  • Inhalation: respiratory symptoms, pain in chest, difficulty breathing.
  • Seek medical attention immediately if infection is suspected.

Protect Myself and Others

  • Take precautions to avoid bites from ticks and biting flies.
  • When handling, dressing, or skinning any wild animal, wear disposable gloves, and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Cook all meat thoroughly.

Safe for Pets?

No. Tularemia can be fatal to pets. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been infected. Effective antibiotic treatment is available.

What Causes It?

Bacterium called Francisella tularensis.