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Tularemia, a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis, has been unusually active this year.  The Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are reminding those who frequent the outdoors to be mindful of tularemia when spending time outside this fall.

The disease typically affects rabbits, muskrats, beavers and squirrels.  However, it can be transmitted to many other species through the bites of infected ticks and flies.

There have been 16 documented cases of tularemia in humans so far this year.  Direct contact with an infected animal, consumption of undercooked meat, and even drinking contaminated water can all transmit the disease.  Experts suggest these simple guidelines to help prevent exposure:

  • Avoid handling sick wildlife
  • Wear gloves when field dressing any harvested animal especially rabbits, muskrats, and beavers
  • Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks are easier to spot
  • Inspect pets/dogs for ticks before returning home from the field, and consult with your veterinarian regarding tick prevention
  • Use an insect repellent that is effective against ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes
  • Avoid drinking water from streams or lakes that has not been purified
  • Cook meat thoroughly before consumption, particularly that of rabbits and squirrels

Symptoms of tularemia in humans include fever, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, swollen and painful lymph glands, skin ulcers, and diarrhea.

Inhalation of the bacteria can result in symptoms such as sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, joint pain, progressive weakness, dry cough, and pneumonia.

Tularemia can be transmitted at any time throughout the year, but it is less likely to be spread after the first hard frost, when many ticks and flies carrying the disease are eliminated.