US Cases of Dangerous 'Rabbit Fever' Are Spiking

It's spread to people through contact with infected animals, ticks
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2015 10:20 AM CST
US Cases of Dangerous 'Rabbit Fever' Are Spiking
The official name of 'rabbit fever' is tularemia.   (AP Photo/Daily Chronicle, Monica Synett)

A disease thought to have the potential for use in biological warfare is on the rise in the US. The CDC warns that the rare bacterial disease "rabbit fever," or tularemia—spread by ticks and rabbits—has turned up in 100 people across four states as of Sept. 30. Usually, these states report a combined total of 20 cases annually, reports Live Science. One 85-year-old man died, while 48 others were hospitalized. Colorado has seen the most cases at 43, followed by Nebraska at 21, South Dakota at 20, and Wyoming at 16. Experts aren't sure why there's been such an uptick this year, but more rabbits and greater awareness may be factors.

The CDC notes the disease is spread when humans touch an infected animal, consume contaminated food or water, breathe in contaminated air, or are bitten by infected ticks. It can't be passed from person to person, reports Medical Daily. Symptoms depend on how a person is infected: someone who touches an infected animal may get skin ulcers, while someone who breathes in particles may develop throat and lung issues. Other symptoms include fever, muscle or joint pain, trouble breathing, pink eye, swollen or ruptured lymph nodes, stomach pain, and sepsis. The disease can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics. "Residents and visitors to these areas should regularly use insect repellent, wear gloves when handling animals, and avoid mowing in areas where sick or dead animals have been reported," per the CDC. (Cases of the plague also are on the rise.)

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