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Tularemia

Information about tularemia, or rabbit fever, a disease primarily of rabbits but can also be found in rodents and transmitted to humans.

The most common way that humans become infected with tularemia is by contact with blood or tissues of rabbits infected with the tularemia bacteria.

  • deer_flyDirect contact cases usually involve hunters who field dress infected rabbits without wearing gloves allowing the bacteria to enter the body through open cuts or abrasions in the skin. The most common way that humans become infected with tularemia is by contact with blood or tissues of rabbits infected with the tularemia bacteria.
  • Direct contact cases usually involve hunters who field dress infected rabbits without wearing gloves allowing the bacteria to enter the body through open cuts or abrasions in the skin.
  • Humans also may become infected through the bites of infected ticks or deer flies.

 

Preventive Strategies

  • Direct contact cases usually involve hunters who field dress infected rabbits without wearing gloves allowing the bacteria to enter the body through open cuts or abrasions in the skin. Dead rodents and rabbits without obvious trauma found east of Tramway and in the East Mountains may be tested. Call 311 to report a dead rodent or rabbit.
  • Keep pets confined to prevent them from ingesting infected animals
  • Regularly treat pets and their bedding with flea and tick control
  • Eliminate rodent harborage such as wood piles, or trash, bird feeders, water fountains, etc.

Human Symptoms

  • Symptoms can appear within two to ten days after exposure but most people experience symptoms within three to five days.
  • The usual symptoms include fever, headache, chills, weakness, swollen and tender lymph nodes in the armpit, elbow, groin or neck. An open sore or ulcer may also appear at the site of infection.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms described here seek medical attention;with early diagnosis and antibiotics this disease is easily treatable.
  • Pets experiencing symptoms described below should be taken to a veterinarian.

Pets

  • Pets are most likely to acquire tularemia from eating infected rabbits or rodents and also from tick and deer fly bites.
  • Cats with tularemia may have a high fever, a lack of appetite and act sluggish. Dogs with the disease have a high fever, nasal and eye discharge and open skin sores at the site of infection.

Surveillance

  • Tularemia has been found in the East Mountains, North Albuquerque Acres, and Sandia Heights. Tularemia is more active April-October and does overlap with plague in its seasonality and locality.
  • Residents in these endemic areas who find a rabbit or rodent which died for no apparent reason should contact 311 to have the animal removed.
  • Tissue samples will be taken and sent for testing. Urban Biology staff will be notified by the New Mexico Department of Health if a dog or cat has been diagnosed with tularemia.
  • Upon notification of an infected animal, Urban Biology staff will conduct follow-up surveillance and control in the affected area. Samples will be taken from captured animals and sent for testing to determine the extent of the disease. Rodent burrows in the affected area will be treated with insecticide to kill any infected ticks.
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