Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Nine Beavers Dead From Tularemia, A Disease That Can Also Affect Humans

Nine beavers were found dead in Wasatch, Summit, and Utah countries over the past several weeks. Upon testing, it was revealed that the animals had died from tularemia, an infectious disease that can also affect people.

Also known as rabbit fever, the disease is caused by the gram-negative bacterium Francisella tularensis and typically affects small mammals such as rabbits and rodents.

rabbit fever
The disease is also known as ‘Rabbit Fever’, as it commonly affects rodents such as rabbits and hares

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), nine beaver carcasses were found, five of which had shared a beaver lodge at the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter.

Another animal was found dead by a DWR fisheries crew near Midway and two additional beavers were found near a dam during the same week.

According to Dr. Ginger Stout, a veterinarian for the DWR, the bacteria that causes tularemia is known to be present in many parts of Utah, however, it rarely affects this many animals at the same time.

The last time an animal was found dead from tularemia was more than five years ago when a cottontail rabbit was found deceased in Kanab, Utah.

However, this isn’t the first time tularemia infections have been on the rise. According to a 2023 study, rabbit fever cases went up between 2011 and 2019 with nearly 2,000 cases reported during that period.

With the rise in animal deaths, experts are concerned that the disease may be on the rise.

Tularemia aka Rabbit Fever

tick transmitted disease
Tularemia can be transmitted to humans via tick bites

Tularemia is an infectious disease that commonly affects rabbits, hares, and other rodents, in North America. Once the bacteria enters the body, it will start to destroy cells before spreading to other areas of the body.

However, it can also affect humans through deer fly and tick bites, inhaling contaminated aerosols, and skin contact with infected animals during trapping or hunting seasons. Drinking water contaminated with the bacteria can also cause infection.

In the United States, less than 300 cases are reported every year.

Depending on where the bacteria enter the body, they can cause skin ulcers, eye irritation and inflammation, swelling of lymph glands, sore throat, tonsillitis, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and cough. Symptoms typically appear three to five days after an individual is exposed to the bacteria, however, it can take up to 14 days for some individuals.

tularemia ulcer
Tularemia can cause skin ulcers, depending on where the bacteria enters the body

Without prompt medical treatment, the infection can be life-threatening for individuals. With antibiotics, however, most cases can be treated successfully, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials are currently advising individuals to take proper precautions by using appropriate insect repellent and wearing protective clothing. Those who have been in bushy areas should also check for ticks upon getting home.

Anyone who finds dead beavers, hares, rabbits, or other rodents should avoid touching the animals and report the animals to the DWR office.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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