UT: Rare disease prompts a warning *Health Alert*

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Rare disease prompts a warning By Sharon Haddock

Deseret News staff writer


PROVO Utah County officials are asking the public to be on the alert after two local men were definitively diagnosed with tularemia or "rabbit fever." Both men had been hunting recently and were probably exposed to the rare bacterial disease the first part of July, said Dr. Joseph Miner, Utah County Health Department executive director. 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 promptly. Miner said the two men who became ill went for several weeks without being properly diagnosed because the disease is so rare. Both are now responding to the antibiotic treatment. However, Miner said it's essential the public be aware that the disease exists and report any suspected cases to either the state health department (801-538-6191) or to Utah County (801-370-8724). 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. "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.

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com

-- Tess (webwoman@iamit.com), July 28, 2001


Leave the bunnies alone!

-- K. (infosurf@yahoo.com), July 29, 2001.

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