EMPORIA, Kan. (WIBW) - People in Emporia are being warned about a deadly disease. It's called Tularemia, or rabbit fever.
Lyon County health officials say there have been no confirmed cases in humans, but an Emporia resident found eight dead rabbits in his yard over a period of time. When he found a ninth dead animal - a squirrel - he contacted the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks, which sent it to the Southeast Cooperative for Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia. The squirrel tested positive for Tularemia.
Tularemeia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacteria Franciscella Tularensis. Health officials say rabbits and rodents are especially susceptible to the disease. They say cats also can become ill and spread the disease to their owners. Humans also can become infected through tick or mosquito bites, skin contact with infected animals, drinking water contaminated by dead animals or inhaling contaminated dusts or aerosols.
The last known human death from Tularemia in Kansas was in 2008.
“There are steps people can take to prevent Tularemia," Lyon Co. Health Officer Ann Mayo said. "They need to use insect repellent, wear gloves when handling sick or dead animals and avoid mowing over dead animals. Although there have been no human cases, we want our community to be educated so they can take proper precautions to stay safe.”
Current recommendations for dealing with potential exposure to Tularemia include:
· If bitten by an animal, wash the bite area thoroughly and contact a medical professional.
· Watch for signs of illness in your pets. Report any illness to your veterinarian.
· Wash your hands after handling animals that are allowed outdoors.
· All indoor, outdoor cats and dogs should have monthly flea and tick preventative.
· If you are involved in outdoor activities, wear long pants and sleeves, use a product containing DEET, and check for ticks.
· Wash any abrasions that occur when working or playing outside and wash your hands.
· Do not touch dead animals with your bare hands. Double bag dead animals weighing less than 30 pounds and place in the trash or bury them. Wash your hands after disposing of dead animals.
The signs and symptoms of tularemia in humans vary depending on how the bacteria enter the body. Illness ranges from mild to life-threatening. All forms are accompanied by fever, which can be as high as 104 °F. Other symptoms can include: sores on the skin, cough, chest pain, difficulty breathing and, swelling of the lymph nodes. These symptoms typically occur three to five days after exposure. Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.