Health Officials See Increase In Rare Rabbit Fever Tularemia In Humans


Health officials report that cases of a rare rabbit fever, Tularemia, in humans has significantly increased in 2015. In the last 20 years, there was only an average of 125 cases reported every year in the United States, but from January to September, a total of 100 cases were recorded in several states, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In a span of nine months, 100 cases have already been reported in four states, with Colorado having the most number of cases with 43 people. On the other hand, Nebraska had 21, South Dakota had 20 and Wyoming had 16 cases of Tularemia. Health officials aren’t sure of the reason why the cases are unusually high this year. They speculate that it may have something to do with weather conditions that helped rodents, which carry the bacteria, thrive in some states.

Increased rainfall in these areas this year could have contributed to pathogen survival and increased rodent or rabbit populations. CDC officials urge constituents to participate in testing and health practitioners are advised to be aware of the increased risks in these states as well as promoting health education among residents to prevent exposure to infected animals.

Tularemia, is a rare bacterial disease in rabbits and sometimes, humans that is caused by Francisella tularensis. It is an infectious disease that usually attacks the eyes, lymph nodes, skin and lungs. Its mode of transmission includes insect bites, ingestion of contaminated food or water and direct exposure to an infected animals like rabbits, rodents and cats. This disease is highly fatal if left untreated, so early diagnosis and initiation of antibiotic therapy are important.

Typical symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, body pains, muscle and joint pain, cough, difficulty in breathing, swollen lymph nodes, skin lesions, pharyngitis, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Manifestations usually begin within three to five days but sometimes can take up to 14 days to appear.

If the disease is not treated immediately, it might lead to potentially-fatal complications like pneumonia, infection in the membranes of the spinal cord and brain (meningitis), heart membrane irritation (pericarditis) and bone infection.