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New Mexico Department of Health Warns Residents about Tularemia
Four Human Cases and Six Pet Cases in the Last Two Months
(Santa Fe) – The New Mexico Department of Health announced today that tularemia cases are on the increase in several locations around New Mexico. Since the middle of April there have been 4 cases in people and 6 cases in dogs and cats. The human cases include a 45-year-old man from Santa Fe County, an 88-year-old woman from McKinley County, a 62-year-old woman from Santa Fe County and a 75-year-old woman from San Juan County.  Three of the human cases were hospitalized and all have recovered and gone home. Onset of illness in the most recent case was June 15. The pet cases include 2 cats and one dog from Santa Fe County, a dog from Sandoval County, a dog from Los Alamos County, and a cat from Torrance County. They have all recovered.
“I would encourage people in the mentioned counties and around the state to follow the same precautions they would to avoid plague,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Retta Ward, MPH. “Don’t handle sick or dead rodents, don’t allow pets to roam and hunt, get an appropriate tick and flea control product for pets, and take sick pets to a veterinarian. Since tularemia can be fatal in a small percentage of cases, it should be treated with antibiotics following an evaluation by a physician.”   
Tularemia is a potentially serious illness in people that occurs naturally in the United States. It is caused by a bacteria found in animals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares. Tularemia can also make dogs and cats sick and they can give the disease to people. Symptoms of tularemia in people usually develop 3 to 5 days after exposure but onset can vary from 1 to 14 days. Tularemia symptoms are similar to plague infection including sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscles aches and joint pain. Other symptoms of tularemia depend on how a person was exposed to the tularemia bacteria and can include pneumonia and chest pain, ulcers on the skin or mouth, swollen and painful lymph glands, swollen and painful eyes, and a sore throat.
“The recent human cases in New Mexico had various exposures to tularemia, including skinning a rabbit with bare hands, receiving a bite from a sick cat, cleaning out a water trough with a dead rabbit in it, and being bitten by a deer fly or a tick on the lower leg,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the Department of Health’s public health veterinarian.  “Oftentimes there is a rabbit or rodent die off in an area due to tularemia and deer flies or ticks can become infected from these animals and then pass it on to pets or people when they bite them.”
People can get tularemia in different ways: handling infected animal carcasses; being bitten by an infected tick, deerfly or other insect; eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by breathing in the bacteria. Dogs and cats are usually exposed to tularemia when they are allowed to roam and hunt sick rodents and rabbits or when bitten by an infected tick.
For more information on tularemia go online to

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Farmington Veterinarian | Animal Haven Clinic | 505-325-8829

822 E. Main St.
Farmington, NM 87401

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