Rabbit Fever Tularemia

What is Rabbit Fever?

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an infectious disease caused a bacterium called Francisella tularensis. It is often a disease in hunters, especially people who hunt rabbits or other wildlife that may harbour the bacteria. Outbreaks of the disease may occur.

How do you get Rabbit Fever?

The bacterium is typically spread by ticks, deer flies, contact with infected animals, by drinking contaminated water or breathing in contaminated dust. It is not spread directly between people. The bacteria can penetrate into the body through damaged skin, mucous membranes, and inhalation. Humans are most often infected by tick/deer fly bites.

Susceptibility and Resistance

Susceptibility is universal. Hunters, game wardens, trappers, and campers are particularly susceptible. Animals that are known to have transmitted tularemia include rabbits (most common), foxes, squirrels, skunks, muskrats, beavers, voles, and even fish.

Incubation Period

The incubation period for Rabbit Fever is 1-14 days.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms depend on the site of infection. There are 6 characteristic clinical versions of this disease. Ulceroglandular (swollen lymph nodes with overlying skin ulcers) is the most common type representing 75% of all forms. Other types include glandular (swollen lymph nodes), oropharyngeal (mouth and larynx), pneumonic, oculoglandular (eye inflammation with swollen lymph nodes), and typhoidal (gastrointestinal). Typical symptoms include abrupt onset of fever, headache, chills and rigours, myalgia (muscle aches especially the low back), coryza (red eyes), and sore throat. Symptoms may also include skin ulcers and enlarged lymph nodes.

Preventative Measures

There are no safe, available, approved vaccines against tularemia. Preventive measures include using insect repellent, wearing long pants, rapid removing ticks, and not disturbing dead animals. Hunters should use face masks when skinning animals that may be infected.


Treatment includes antibiotics such as streptomycin or gentamicin. Doxycycline has also been used.


Where Does It Commonly Occur?

Tularemia is ubiquitous in the northern hemisphere, including the United States, Europe, Russia and the former republics of the USSR, Japan, and Spain.