About Tularemia

Key points

  • Tularemia is a potentially serious illness caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis.
  • People can become infected in several different ways, including tick and deer fly bites, and contact with infected animals (especially rodents, rabbits, and hares).
Photo montague of person mowing grass with a push mower, a horse fly, a rabbit and a tick.


Tularemia is a disease that can infect animals and people. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. People can become infected in several ways, including:

  • Tick and deer fly bites
  • Skin contact with infected animals
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Inhaling contaminated aerosols or agricultural and landscaping dust
  • Laboratory exposure

In addition, people could be exposed as a result of bioterrorism.

Symptoms vary depending how the person was infected. Tularemia can be life-threatening, but most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Steps to prevent tularemia include:

  • Using insect repellent
  • Wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals
  • Avoiding mowing over dead animals

In the United States, naturally occurring infections have been reported from all states except Hawaii.