Forget monkeypox. Health officials in Iowa are on the lookout for another rare disease that can kill people who come in contact with infected animals. It’s called tularemia or “rabbit fever.” Three people contracted the disease recently in Lincoln, Nebraska. Doctor and bacteriologist Paul Fey says the most common form of tularemia is spread much like West Nile virus. The way most people get it is a fly or mosquito will feed on an infected animal and then feeds on a human. Symptoms of this non-fatal form of the disease are flu-like: skin ulcers, swollen lymph glands, pain in the eyes and severe sore throat. Dr. Fey says the disease isn’t new, though it is rare. Iowa usually only has one case a year, with 200 annual cases nationwide. It’s called rabbit fever because rabbit hunters used to get it when skinning infected rabbits. If hunters cut themselves while skinning, the organism could get into their bodies that way. The three people who were infected in Nebraska had all come into contact with an infected rabbit that had been hit by a lawn mower.All three of the Lincoln men have gotten treatment and survived. When inhaled, Dr. Fey says the disease spreads through the body in a much more vigorous manner and -can- be fatal. In the breathable form, Fey says tularemia is considered a bioterrorist threat, as various countries have tried to use this as a chemical agent. The death rate is 40-to-60-percent. It’s in the same U-S government category as anthrax and smallpox virus.
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