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Tularemia Found in Dogs in E. Mountains

Recent confirmation of tularemia found in dogs in the East Mountains area; residents urged to take precautions.

June 23, 2015

The City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department and the Bernalillo County Health and Protection Section want to advise citizens living in the East Mountains area to be aware of a potential risk to public health from tularemia after two dogs were recently confirmed to have contracted the disease.

Tularemia is a highly infectious bacterial disease that is similar to plague. The organism commonly occurs in rabbits and rodents, and can kill large numbers of rabbits quickly. Symptoms in humans include chills, fever, severe headache and occasionally skin lesions, and transmission can occur from the bite of an infected tick or deer fly, or from close contact with an animal that is infected with tularemia.

'Rain & Increased Vegetation'

"The rain and increased vegetation we have seen over the last several months has provided extra food and harborage for rodent and rabbit populations," said Dr. Paul Smith, a manager for the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. "A larger number of rodents and rabbits often leads to more occurrences of both tularemia and plague."

Although there have been no human cases of plague or tularemia so far in Bernalillo County in 2015, five dogs and one rabbit have been confirmed with tularemia infection. The two most recent confirmations in dogs were made on June 22. Plague has been confirmed in one cat in 2015.

"Dogs and cats can become infected with plague and tularemia through hunting rodents and rabbits or by exposure to their fleas or ticks." said Dr. Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director for the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department. "People are often exposed when their pets bring these infected fleas or ticks into the house or through direct contact with the sick or dead rodent."

Risks of Plague & Tularemia

Reduce the risk of Plague and Tularemia:

  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea and tick control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs, or your children.
  • Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Don’t allow children or others to handle sick or dead wildlife
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.
  • Avoid mowing over dead animals when cutting the grass, etc. as this can potentially aerosolize the bacteria.
  • Bernalillo County citizens living east of Tramway Boulevard should report sick or dead rodents and rabbits to 311. Rodents or rabbits with obvious signs of injury (gunshot wounds, bite wounds, etc.) do not need to be reported.