Tularemia case likely from wild game contact: Sudbury health officials

by Bill Hodgins | November 10, 2015

Sudbury map - tularemiaSudbury health officials say a confirmed case of tularemia, contracted by an “adult resident” of the area, is believed to have come through contact with wild game.

It’s the first case of tularemia in the Sudbury & District Health Unit’s service area since 2003.

According to the health unit, tularemia is a bacteria-borne disease that occurs naturally in Ontario wildlife populations, especially in rabbits, hares, voles, muskrats, beavers, and squirrels, and in ticks and small domestic animals.

Humans can become infected through several routes, including bites to the skin or licks of an infected animal, handling or cleaning the carcass of an infected animal (especially the skin or meat), eating inadequately cooked wild game, and bites from an infected tick or deer fly.

Hunters are at higher risk of exposure because of the handling of wild game carcasses.

Tularemia is considered rare in Canada, with just 289 reported cases and 12 deaths between 1940 and 1981. There are approximately 200 cases reported annually in the U.S. The transmission of tularemia from person to person has not been reported.

Symptoms of tularemia depend on how a person was infected and range from mild to life-threatening. They can include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, vomiting, dry cough and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, and diarrhea.

Health officials say the elderly, people with respiratory illness, or immune-compromised individuals are most at risk of developing severe illness with tularemia. Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms after an exposure to wild game or ticks should contact their health care provider as soon as possible. Confirmed cases are treated with antibiotics.

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