A disease killing beavers in Utah can also affect humans, authorities say

Nine beavers have been found dead over the last few weeks across multiple counties in Utah, and three have tested positive for a disease that state wildlife officials say can also affect humans.

The disease, called tularemia, is a disease that can infect both animals and people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabbits, hares and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks, the CDC says.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is asking the public to take caution by not touching the animals and to report any dead beavers to DWR officials.

"The bacteria that causes this infection is known to be in the environment in many parts of Utah; however, it is unusual to see this many animals die from it at once," DWR veterinarian Ginger Stout said in a news release.

According to the DWR, the last confirmed case of tularemia killing wildlife in Utah was in 2017 with a cottontail rabbit in the Kanab area.

How does tularemia spread to humans?

There are several ways it can spread to humans, according to the CDC, including:

  • Tick and deer fly bites

  • Skin contact with infected animals

  • Drinking contaminated water

  • Inhaling contaminated aerosols or agricultural and landscaping dust

  • Laboratory exposure

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, can be life-threatening for people if not treated quickly, but most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics, the CDC says. Symptoms vary depending on how the person was infected.

"There is a concern about the possibility of tick-borne or fly-borne diseases, so it's advised to take the necessary precautions by wearing protective clothing, using appropriate insect repellent and checking for ticks after being in brushy areas," Stout said in the news release.

How to prevent tularemia infection

According to the CDC, you can prevent tularemia by using insect repellent, wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals and avoiding mowing over dead animals.

Gabe Hauari is a national trending news reporter at USA TODAY. You can follow him on X @GabeHauari or email him at Gdhauari@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tularemia has killed multiple beavers in Utah and can affect humans