Tularemia Found in Wild Rabbit; Caution Urged

June 16, 2018

A wild rabbit found June 13 in Tinley Park has tested positive for tularemia. Cook County Animal and Rabies Control urges residents to avoid touching live or dead wildlife.

Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bacterium is present in some wildlife in northeast Illinois. Some animals, such as wild rabbits, muskrats and beavers, may be carriers, but are unaffected by the bacterium. Generally, wild animals do not exhibit signs.

A person can be infected with tularemia through a tick bite or exposure to infected animals, such as rabbits. 

To avoid exposure:

  • Do not handle wild animals.
  • Keep pets away from wild animals.
  • Be alert for dead rabbits, especially when mowing the grass. Do not mow over a dead rabbit.
  • If you find a dead rabbit, call Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, (708) 974-6140.
  • If you find a sick rabbit or other animal in your yard, leave it alone and keep pets away, then contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Symptoms of disease in humans include:

  • Fever 
  • Flu-like symptoms 
  • Rashes or red lesions on skin 

In pets, symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the head and neck
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice 
  • Lethargy

If you or your pet experience these symptoms, seek medical attention and contact Cook County Animal and Rabies Control at (708) 974-6140.