The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) is reminding those living in the Long Point area to avoid handling wildlife after the discovery of the bacteria that causes tularemia – an infectious disease– in a large number of muskrats in the area.
Tularemia – also known as rabbit fever – affects humans and animals such as muskrats, rabbits and beavers, deer flies and ticks. In humans, it typically attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs.
Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and nausea. There were four human cases reported across Ontario between 2007 and 2017. With treatment, death is rare.
Humans can become infected after handling an infected animal, ingesting contaminated food or water, being bitten or licked by an infected insect or animal, or inhaling contaminated aerosols from contaminated soil.
The HNHU will continue to monitor the situation at Long Point and is working with the Ministry of Health and other agencies to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect the public.
How to protect yourself against tularemia
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit advises the public to take the following precautions to protect themselves against tularemia:
- Stay away from wild animals – living or dead.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after activities such as paddling in the area,and being in contact with any surface water in the affected areas.
- Ensure children are kept away from wild animals (includes when preparing wild animals for meals.)
- Wear rubber gloves when preparing wild animals for meals, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Thoroughly cook wild meat prior to eating.
- Use insect repellant and wear long pants and sleeves when outdoors to prevent tick bites.
- Check yourself, kids and pets for ticks after being outdoors.
- Keep dogs on a leash while in these areas.
- If you think you may have contracted tularemia, contact your primary healthcare provider.
For more information about tularemia, please HNHU website: https://hnhu.org/health-topic/tularemia/