Three cases of rare disease linked to rabbits
Thursday, June 26, 2003
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Two men who mowed over a nest of rabbits, killing some of them, and another who cleaned the mower developed a rare disease known as rabbit fever, authorities said.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating. The disease, also called pneumonic tularemia, is generally treatable with antibiotics but can lead to pneumonia.
The illness is caused by a bacterium found in wild animals, particularly rodents and rabbits. People can become infected through bites by infected animals or infected insects, handling carcasses, eating contaminated food or, in rare cases, inhaling the bacterium. It is not transmitted person-to-person.
The CDC became interested because all three had the rare inhaled form of the disease, said Lancaster County health official Tim Timmons.
All three were briefly hospitalized and have fully recovered, he said.
The United States averaged 124 cases of tularemia in 1999 and 2000, according the CDC, and three to four cases a year are typical in Nebraska.
Tularemia is caused by the organism Francisella tularensis, a bacteria studied widely during World War II as a biological weapon. Depending on how a person is infected, it can cause flu-like symptoms, skin ulcers, swollen eyes and a sore throat.
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