A rabbit recently found in the town of Hillsdale, WY has tested positive for tularemia. Tularemia is a disease from the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is typically found in animals, especially rabbits, rodents and hares.
Symptoms in humans include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, and more. Symptoms can also include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, difficulty breathing, and more.
Tularemia can be treated when detected in early stages, officials said. People can become infected with tularemia through the bite of infected insects, most commonly ticks and deer flies, or through skin contact with infected animal tissue. Bacteria can also be inhaled when an infected animal is broken into small particles and spread through the air, such as when an infected carcass is mowed over.
Plague is another disease to be aware of at this time of the year. Plague is from the Yersinia pestis bacteria and can be transmitted to people through flea bites and direct contact with infected animals. The bacteria can be carried by fleas, which can be found on rodents like prairie dogs, squirrels, and rabbits.
People should never contact wild animals due to the possibility that diseases such as Tularemia and Plague can be transmitted from animals. Tularemia and plague are rare but are still a human health risk due to the number of wild rabbits and rodents in the area.
The Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department recommends the following precautions:
• Stay out of areas inhabited by wild rabbits and rodents. If you must enter areas frequented by wild animals, always wear insect repellent containing DEET.
• Prevent your pets from hunting or eating wild rodents or rabbits.
• Avoid all contact with wild rabbits and rodents, including squirrels; do not feed or handle them.
• 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.
• Don’t mow over animal carcasses and consider using a dust mask when doing landscape work.
• 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.
• See a health care provider if you become ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.
• Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.