Rare 'rabbit fever' appears in Provo Utah area.


Mar 11, 2001
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Rare 'rabbit fever' appears in Provo area.

Sun, July 29, 2001 00:00:00

The Associated Press

PROVO -- Utah County officials are asking the public to be on the alert after two men were diagnosed with tularemia or "rabbit fever."

Both men had been hunting and were probably exposed to the rare bacterial disease the first part of July, said Dr. Joseph Miner, Utah County Health Department executive director.

Tularemia, along with plague, botulism, brucella and anthrax, is one of the five infections considered most likely to be used as a bioterrorism weapon through the air or water supply.

Miner said the two men went for several weeks without being properly diagnosed because the disease is so rare. Both are now responding to antibiotic treatment.

One was bitten by deer flies while camping in Pinedale, Wyo., and the other reported handling a rabbit that may have been ill.

The disease, with fewer than 300 cases reported in the United States each year, is potentially fatal and is usually spread through contact with wild infected rabbits, ticks or deer flies. Muskrats and beavers also can contract and spread tularemia.

Symptoms include the development of an ulcer at the site of the bite within three to 10 days followed by swelling of the lymph nodes nearest the site and headache, fever, malaise, and/or pneumonia.

The antibiotic most often used to treat tularemia is Streptomycin, a drug not commonly prescribed for strep and staph infections, so victims may lose time in getting effective treatment if not accurately diagnosed.

Miner said it's essential the public be aware of the disease and report any suspected cases to either the state health department (801-538-6191) or to Utah County (801-370-8724).

"In light of this, it's extremely important that health care professionals and the public notify us as soon as possible if any of these are suspected," Miner said.

It's also important to wear protective gloves or goggles when skinning or handling wild game and to thoroughly cook the meat before eating, he said.


Well-known member
Apr 4, 2001
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I thought you could only get tularemia by being bitten by the fleas from an infected rabbit.  This sounds like other parasites/carriers can also transmit the disease.  But I never knew you could get it from the meat if it was not well cooked -- I'm going to have to check that out, even though I always try to be sure wild game is well cooked, but not overcooked, otherwise the uncooked blood in the meat carries an outrageously gamey taste in my opinion.  No offense to you big game hunters who drink the raw blood and eat the raw heart of the animal you harvest -- do people really do that?

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