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Tularemia ('Rabbit Fever') Confirmed in Coconino County

The Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD), in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Health Services, announced recently that two human cases of tularemia (also known as rabbit fever or deer fly fever) were recently confirmed in Coconino County. 

The two individuals were likely exposed from insect bites.  Both have received treatment and are recovering.

Eight Cases In Ten Years

In the past decade, there have been eight human cases of tularemia from Navajo, Coconino and Maricopa counties.  The current cases are the first confirmed

cases of tularemia in Coconino County since 2005 when two family members contracted the illness after exposure to a rabbit carcass. In Arizona, tularemia activity occurs in areas over 3,000 feet in elevation.


Tularemia is a bacterial disease that infects rabbits and other mammals. The disease does not spread from person to person. Tularemia can be transmitted to humans in several ways. The primary mode of transmission is through the skinning and cleaning of game animals, usually rabbits. It can also be transmitted to humans through deer fly and tick bites and by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.


An infected person may show a variety of symptoms, including an ulcer or sore at the site of exposure, painful swelling of regional lymph nodes (usually in the

armpit, elbow, groin, or neck area), fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and nausea. Tularemia-like symptoms appear one to 14 days, but usually three to five days, after

skinning game, or after being bitten by deer flies or ticks.  People can also develop pneumonia and may have the following symptoms: chest pain, bloody sputum and trouble breathing.

Get Treatment ASAP

Tularemia can be a severe disease, but can be cured with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Because tularemia is not spread from person to person, people who have tularemia do not need to be isolated. People who have been exposed to the tularemia bacteria should be treated as soon as possible. The disease can be

fatal if it is not properly treated.


Summer in Northern Arizona can result in an increase in warm weather pests which can pose health risks. Pests such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and mice can

carry disease. To help keep you and your family safe from possible illness, the CCPHSD recommends following a few prevention guidelines:

1. Avoiding contact with wild animals.

2. Do not handle sick or dead animals.

3. Wear protective equipment, such as gloves and mask when hunting and handling animals.

4. Protect against insect bites when hiking, camping or working outdoors. Wear insect repellent containing DEET or treat clothing with repellent containing permethrin.

5. Do not drink untreated water.

6. Avoid exposure to rodent burrows, fleas and ticks. Stay out of areas wild rodents inhabit.

7. Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas or ticks of wild animals, and then pass fleas on to their human owners.  De-flea pets routinely.

8. Seek care from health care provider if experiencing symptoms.

For more information on tularemia and other diseases, please visit http://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/tularemia.


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