New Mexico state health officials are reporting two confirmed cases of tularemia in 2019 among two residents of Santa Fe County: a 57-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman.
“Tularemia can cause serious illness in both people and pets, so I would encourage people in Santa Fe County to follow precautions to avoid getting infected,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Kathy Kunkel. “People can get tularemia if they handle infected animals such as rabbits or rodents or are bitten by infected ticks or deer flies. Provide your own protection against insect bites and improve your pet’s safety by not letting them roam loose or scavenge rodents.”
Tularemia is a rare infection caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis that spreads through insect bites, with deer flies and ticks being the primary vectors in New Mexico. It can also be spread through handling infected animal tissues in situations such as hunting, trapping and skinning of rabbits or other rodents or during the clean-up of rodent carcasses while gardening.
Dogs and cats can be infected if they are allowed to roam and scavenge dead animals or are not protected from tick bites. Tularemia can also make dogs and cats sick: if they are not diagnosed and treated by their veterinarian, they can give the disease to people. Direct inoculation from an animal bite is very rare but can occur if the animal is infected.
Tularemia symptoms in people may include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscles aches and joint pain. Other symptoms may include swollen and painful lymph glands especially in the anatomical region where the bacteria first gained entry into the body.