Tularaemia

Current situation

  • Tularaemia (Francisella tularensis) has been confirmed for the first time in Australian animals.
  • A new method of testing has resulted in a diagnosis of tularaemia (Francisella tularensis) infection in two ringtail possums that died in separate clusters in 2002 and 2003.
  • This finding is not unexpected given that there have been reported human cases of tularaemia in Australia, including one case in Darwin in 2003 and two separate cases in Tasmania from 2011.

Worldwide, tularaemia can affect a wide range of mammals including rabbits, hares, rodents and wildlife. It may cause acute blood poisoning (septicaemia) and sudden death in these species.

Overseas, tularaemia has been shown to spread to humans who have direct contact with sick animals or direct contact with water or tissues contaminated by sick animals or via tick or insect bites. For information on symptoms in humans please refer to the NSW Health factsheet.

Advice to the public regarding sick or dead wildlife

Tularaemia may cause infection in humans but this is extremely rare in Australia.

  • Avoid touching sick or dead wildlife.
  • People who find sick, injured or orphaned wildlife should contact a local wildlife care organisation.
  • If you must handle wildlife, wear gloves and make sure the animal is well restrained.

Reporting unusual signs of disease or death in wildlife

To report unusual signs of disease or death in wildlife:

Biosecurity bulletins

    For advice on sick animals contact a private veterinarian.

    For advice on human health

    If you have any concerns regarding your health or the health of other people in-contact with the suspect animal contact your GP or your local public health unit on 1300 066 055 and tell them that you have had contact with a sick animal.

    Further Information

    6 October 2016