Tularemia is frequently called “rabbit fever”
is a disease of many animals. Human infection is usually incidental
and usually a result of tick bites or cleaning wild game.
It is more common in rabbits, squirrels, muskrats and deer.
It has also been found with deer flies, some mosquitoes as
well as domestic animals such as cattle and sheep, which is
rare. Considerably uncommon now in the Untied States, it did
peak in approximately 1939 in the United States. Recently,
the states that are still reporting cases, in fact, approximately
60-65% of all cases are from Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky,
Tennessee and Texas. On the West Coast, the common vector
is biting flies. Men account for approximately 75% of all
cases. This is due to their involvement in hunting, trapping,
or butchering wild game. This can be obtained on the skin
as well as being inhaled or eaten. Most common is skin tularemia.
This will start out with a red, either flat or raised bump
that appears about four to five days after cleaning or contact
with the organism. That usually itches, and then is followed
by an abrupt onset of fever, fatigue and chills. This can
also be obtained by breathing in the bacteria, for example
cleaning rabbits, blood being spattered in the air. You can
get pulmonary or lung tularemia. It once was thought that
if hunters would wait after the first freeze that they would
have less of a chance of obtaining this, and that it would
kill off the infected or sick animals. This is untrue. You
can still obtain tularemia from a rabbit in December, January,
or February even after the first freeze. A rash usually does
occur in about 20% of individuals who have tularemia. Treatment
is effective and the mortality rate is 1-2%. Antibiotics that
are used that are very effective are Streptomycin and Gentamycin.
Tetracycline has been used as an alternative for years, but
at this time is not recommended.