Re-emergence of tularemia in Kromme Rijn

Foto: Margriet Montizaan

In March 2017, tularemia was detected in the carcases of two hares found dead in the Kromme Rijn region of Utrecht province that were submitted to the DWHC for post-mortem exam.

The previous autumn, tularemia had been found in the carcases of four hares found in this area. Tularemia was also diagnosed in two people in Utrecht province in 2016. It is therefore important that hunters and anyone else who comes into contact with hares takes the necessary measures to avoid infection and knows how to recognise the symptoms.


Not everyone who comes into contact with this bacteria will become ill. In people, tularemia typically causes ulceration or severe inflammation of multiple lymph nodes. People can catch the disease from infected animals for example through direct contact or indirectly via insect and tick bites or by eating under-cooked meat from infected animals. If you think that you might have been infected contact your GP who may prescribe antibiotics if necessary. There is more information about tularemia in people available at the website of the Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention.

Preventative measures

Hunters and people working or taking recreation in the countryside are most at risk of infection with the bacteria that causes tularemia. It is therefore important to take certain preventative measures:

  • Disposable gloves should always be worn when handling animal carcasses and discarded appropriately after use
  • Hands should be washed with soap and water and dried carefully after handling dead animals and again before consumption of food or drink.
  • Wounds should be thoroughly disinfected and bandaged and existing wounds should be  covered.
  • Wild-caught rabbit or hare meat should always be well-cooked (i.e. meat thermometer measuring > 60°C) and never eaten rare
  • Never eat meat from animals that were found dead
  • Use insect-repellent when temperatures are warm enough for midges and/ or ticks and wear suitable insect-proof clothing. This can also help to protect you from ticks which may carry the bacteria that cause Lymes disease.

Reporting a dead hare

Dead hares are often found in the springtime during the mating season when they are less alert and are more readily run over. There are also numerous diseases that can cause death amongst hares. In order to understand whether or not there is an outbreak of tularemia in the Kromme Rijn region the DWHC is appealing to locals to report any dead wildlife (particularly hares). You can report finding one or more dead hares (or other animals) in the wild, via the DWHC Submission form. After submitting your form you will be contacted by the DWHC who will help to decide whether or not further investigation is necessary and will advise you on how to package the cadaver and arrange collection of the package from your home or place of work.

Further information

Further information about this condition in humans and animals is available on the website of the OIE.