Wednesday's Drudge Report link to "Health officials warn of deadly 'rabbit fever,'" has many yearning for duck season and a break from the infectious summer of 2014. Since spring, Drudge links have informed readers of an assortment of catchy, possibly fatal illnesses to avoid. The list has included Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), chikungunya, Ebola and now tularemia.
Over at the CBS Denver article, it was revealed that Jefferson County health officials are warning folks should "steer clear of sick or dead rabbits." Although thus far no one has been infected in the area, a rabbit did test positive in the southern region of the county.
A reader of the CBS Denver article claimed Matt Drudge's credibility was at stake for using the term "deadly" in the Drudge Report headline as a scare tactic. However over at the government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "tularemia" or rabbit fever is described as "life-threatening." Plus, straight from the CDC government page is found, "Humans could be exposed as a result of bio-terrorism." How scary is that?
There are any number of ways humans can get tularemia besides petting a wild bunny rabbit. Since coming into contact with dead infected animals which carry the bacterium "francisella tularensis" is very risky, it's a good idea to keep one's distance from road kill such as beavers, rodents and rabbits.
Animals who don't normally carry the bacterium may carry ticks or deer fleas, another source. Handle all dead animals with extreme caution and wear heavy rubber gloves. Be liberal with use of insect repellent.
The (CDC) also mentioned contaminated water as another route. When out and about, take plenty of bottled water. CDC warns against mowing over dead animals. It's a matter of not only possibly chopping up the infected animal and spreading pieces through the air, but of the blades of the mower or tractor becoming contaminated and spreading the bacterium to other areas. In addition, cleaning the equipment then could become an infection hazard.
The encouraging news is that, again, though tularemia can indeed be life-threatening, the majority of infections are successfully arrested with antibiotics. According to the article linked on the Drudge Report, symptoms may include "high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a sore at the site where bacteria entered the body."