Human cases of 'rabbit fever' have jumped up this year

Human cases of 'rabbit fever' have jumped up this year

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials are seeing an increase of a rare illness called rabbit fever that was beaten back decades ago.

In the last two decades, health officials saw an average of only approximately 125 cases each year of the illness — known to doctors as tularemia. But there have already been 235 cases this year, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported Thursday. That's the most since 1984.

Officials aren't sure why cases are up, yet speculate that it may have to do with weather conditions that likely helped rodents — & the bacteria — thrive in certain states.

p>At least 100 of this year's cases have been in four states — Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota & Wyoming. Among those cases was an elderly man who died.

Ticks & deer flies pick up the bacteria from rabbits & other small mammals & then spread it when they bite humans. People can moreover obtain it from handling dead animals or breathing in the bacteria.

Symptoms include sudden fever, headaches, muscle aches, joint pain & weakness. It is treatable with antibiotics.

The government still looks for cases because officials worry it potentially could be used as an airborne bioterrorism weapon.

Before 1940, there were as many as 2,200 cases each year.

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Online:

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr

Source: “Associated Press”