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Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks.
The bacterium that causes tularemia is highly infectious and can enter the human body through the skin, eyes, mouth, throat, or lungs.
Tularemia has been reported from all states except Hawaii, but is most common in the south central United States, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard.
The signs and symptoms of tularemia vary depending on how the bacteria enters the body. Illness ranges from mild to life-threatening. All forms are accompanied by fever, which can be as high as 104 °F.
When hiking, camping or working outdoors
- Use insect repellants containing 20% to 30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), picaridin or IR3535. EPA provides information on the proper use of repellents.
- Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep tick and deer flies off your skin.
- Remove attached ticks promptly with fine-tipped tweezers.
- Don’t drink untreated surface water.
When mowing or landscaping
- Don’t mow over sick or dead animals.
- Consider using dust masks to reduce your risk of inhaling the bacteria.
If you hunt, trap or skin animals
- Use gloves when handling animals, especially rabbits, muskrats, prairie dogs, and other rodents.
- Cook game meat thoroughly before eating.
Read more about Tularemia at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Website
About the Header Image
Scanning electron micrograph of a murine macrophage infected with Francisella tularensis strain LVS. Macrophages were dry-fractured by touching the cell surface with cellophane tape after critical point drying to reveal intracellular bacteria. Bacteria (colorized in blue) are located either in the cytosol or within a membrane-bound vacuole. Credit: NIAID