Tularemia is a bacterial disease associated with both animals and humans. Although many wild and domestic animals have been infected, the rabbit is most often involved in disease outbreaks.

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

Hunters or other people who spend a great deal of time out of doors are at a greater risk of exposure to tularemia than people with other occupational or recreational interests.

Many routes of human exposure to the tularemia germ are known to exist. The common routes include inoculation of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling infected animals, contact with fluids from infected flies or ticks or handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat. Less common means of spread are drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil or handling contaminated pelts or other animal products.

Tularemia is usually recognized by the presence of a lesion and swollen glands. Ingestion of the organism may produce a throat infection, intestinal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhalation of the organism may produce a fever and a pneumonia-like illness.

Symptoms generally appear between 1-14 days, but usually after 3-5 days.

Antibiotics to treat tularemia include streptomycin, gentamicin, doxycycline and ciprofloxacin.

Rubber gloves should be worn when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits. Wild rabbit and rodent meat should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Avoid bites of flies and and ticks, and avoid drinking untreated water.

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This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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