Tularemia (rabbit fever, hare plague, deerfly fever) is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis and is an acute, infectious disease of rabbits, hares and rodents. The disease is known throughout North America and is transmitted through the bite of a tick, deerfly, mosquito, or other blood-feeding arthropod, by direct contact with blood or tissue from infected animals, or by the ingestion or inhalation of infected particles.
Humans are susceptible to tularemia, and human cases are often the result from the bite of a tick in the summer or from handling rabbits or hares during hunting season. Hunters can prevent contact transmission by wearing rubber gloves when skinning or dressing small mammals, and should use preventative measures such as tick repellants when hunting in tick-infested habitat. Meat from potentially infected animals should be cooked thoroughly.
Signs of tularemia in wild animals are not well documented due to the acute, fatal nature of the disease. The course of disease lasts approximately two to 10 days. In humans, symptoms usually appear three to five days after exposure to bacteria, and antibiotics are a highly effective cure.