A wild cottontail rabbit from Sheridan County tested positive for tularemia at the VDL. The rabbit carcass was submitted following an acute illness in a domestic cat that had been exposed to the rabbit carcass. Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis and is a tier 1 select agent. A wide range of animals are susceptible to infection, including rodents, lagomorphs, carnivores, sheep, horses, primates, and humans. The disease can be contracted through various routes including respiratory, oral, and percutaneously through ticks. Rabbits and ticks are responsible for the majority tularemia cases.
Select agents include bacterial agents such as Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), Plague (Yersinia pestis) and Tularemia (F. tularensis) are defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as “Biological agents and toxins that have been determined to have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, to animal and plant health, or to animal and plant products.” Samples suspected to contain a select agent must be handled with additional precautions, particularly when collecting, shipping and testing the sample. See our submission guide for additional information.
At the laboratory, we perform extraction protocols in our biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) suite and don additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as double gloves and respiratory protection. Figure 1 shows typical PPE with a PAPR for enhanced respiratory protection.
Brett Webb, DVM, PhD, DACVP