Unlucky illness: Rabbit fever making a return
Tue, Dec 8, 2015
The resurgence of a disease that has been under control since the early 1980s has reared its head once again.
Rabbit fever, or tularemia, is on health officials’ radar, having infected about 235 people this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease has infected only about 125 people each year over the last two decades.
Rabbit fever is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella Tularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including:
- Tick and deer fly bites
- Skin contact with infected animals
- Ingestion of contaminated water
- Inhalation of contaminated aerosols or agricultural dusts
- Laboratory exposure
The catalyst for the jump in cases this year is uncertain, although it might be related to mild weather conditions helping rodents – and the bacteria – thrive.
Symptoms include sudden fever, headaches, muscle aches, joint pain and weakness. It is treatable with antibiotics.
“While there haven’t been any cases reported in our area, it is important to just be aware of this condition and make it a point to discuss with your physician if you’ve been outdoors hunting or have handled any potentially infected animals and have since felt some of the symptoms related to tularemia,” said Dr. Lynn Wagner, an integrative medicine physician with BayCare Clinic.