Skip Navigation LinksSkip Navigation Links
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Safer Healthier People
Blue White
Blue White
bottom curve
CDC Home Search Health Topics A-Z spacer spacer
spacer
Blue curve MMWR spacer
spacer
spacer

The content, links, and pdfs are no longer maintained and might be outdated.

  • The content on this page is being archived for historic and reference purposes only.
  • For current, updated information see the MMWR website.

Public Health Dispatch: Outbreak of Tularemia Among Commercially Distributed Prairie Dogs, 2002

Tularemia has been identified recently as the cause of a die-off in captured wild prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) (Figure) at a commercial exotic animal distributor in Texas. The Texas Department of Health and CDC immediately notified all state health departments and are investigating the outbreak.

Until shipments were halted on August 1, 2002, approximately 250 of an estimated 3,600 prairie dogs that passed through the Texas facility had died. The sick animals were believed to be part of a single shipment of prairie dogs that were caught in South Dakota starting on May 18 and shipped to the Texas distributor on June 16. All prairie dogs that were shipped by the Texas facility after June 16 or by the South Dakota trader after May 18 are being recalled.

Potentially infected prairie dogs were distributed to wholesalers, retailers, and persons in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia and exported to Belgium, the Czech Republic, Japan, The Netherlands, and Thailand. States and countries that received shipments of potentially infected animals have been notified. Unusually high numbers of sick or dead prairie dogs were reported from Texas and the Czech Republic.

Tularemia is caused by infection with Francisella tularensis. The incubation time in humans is normally 2--6 days but can be 1--14 days. The disease usually begins suddenly with high fever, chills, head and muscle aches, and a feeling of weakness. Chest discomfort and a dry cough are common. Other symptoms might appear depending on how the infection is acquired. For example, if the bacteria enter through a break in the skin, an ulcer will usually develop at the site of entry, accompanied by regional lymphadenopathy. In the United States, humans usually acquire tularemia by handling wild rabbits (e.g., while skinning the animal) or by being bitten by infective ticks and certain flies (e.g., deer flies and horse flies). Two known F. tularensis biotypes exist in the United States. Type A is more virulent than type B, but both can result in severe and sometimes fatal illness. F. tularensis recovered from the sick prairie dogs was type B.

Adults who have handled sick or dead prairie dogs from the suspected shipments in the last 2 weeks are being advised to take doxycycline (100 mg twice daily for 14 days) or ciprofloxacin (500 mg twice daily for 14 days). Because these drugs have a higher risk for side effects in children, children who are considered at risk should not take antibiotics but have their temperature monitored for 14 days. Persons who have been in contact with prairie dogs during the preceding 2 weeks and who have fever and other symptoms suggesting tularemia should see their physician. Preferred drugs for treatment of tularemia are gentamicin and streptomycin.

To report human tularemia cases that might be associated with prairie dog exposure or to inquire about shipment of potentially infected prairie dogs, state health departments should contact CDC's Division of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases, telephone 970-221-6400, fax 970-221-6476, e-mail ncidprairiedoginquiries@cdc.gov.

Reported by: C Lindley, DVM, S Avashia, MD, K Hendricks, MD, J Rawlings, MD, J Buck, Texas Dept of Health. J Kool, MD, K Gage, PhD, M Schriefer, PhD, D Dennis, MD, M Chu, PhD, Div of Vector-borne Infectious Diseases; J Peterson, PhD, J Montenieri, D Kim, MD, T Demarcus, M Cetron, MD, Div of Global Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.


Figure

Figure 1
Return to top.

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.

Disclaimer   All MMWR HTML versions of articles are electronic conversions from ASCII text into HTML. This conversion may have resulted in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users should not rely on this HTML document, but are referred to the electronic PDF version and/or the original MMWR paper copy for the official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to mmwrq@cdc.gov.

Page converted: 8/8/2002

HOME  |  ABOUT MMWR  |  MMWR SEARCH  |  DOWNLOADS  |  RSSCONTACT
POLICY  |  DISCLAIMER  |  ACCESSIBILITY

Safer, Healthier People

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd, MailStop E-90, Atlanta, GA 30333, U.S.A

USA.GovDHHS

Department of Health
and Human Services

This page last reviewed 8/8/2002