Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rabbit Fever - Tularemia

Life if far too exciting for me. Too many troubles but it is the nature of growth so I guess I'll just become a little more knowledgeable once more.

Our son was just diagnosed with a suspected Tularemia infection, a rare infectious disease that can attack the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, lungs, and less often, other internal organs.

Our son has a tick bite that has not healed and drastically swollen lymph nodes with major flu like symptoms that come and go with exertion. 

But one can contract the disease in many more ways. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) site says that Tularemia can be spread in the following ways:

being bitten by an infected tick, deerfly or other insect
handling infected animal carcasses
eating or drinking contaminated food or water
breathing in the bacteria, F. tularensis

The disease mainly affects mammals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares, although it can infect birds, reptiles and fish. What an odd assortment. Luckily I've taught my children that if the doctor's answers don't add up, just keep going. The third doctor our son went to see called a specialist on Bubonic Plague, Colorado or American Tick Fever, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Fever, all diseases they looked at in the beginning. The cure is the same antibiotic so pinpointing the cause is not necessary.

Though I do know a little about Rocky Mountain Tick Fever. My step-brother had that years ago. He had a very distinct smell to his body odor. One of the things the doctor used to identify his disease.  

The symptoms are different depending on how you contract Tularemia and that also effects just how deadly the disease is. If treated, less than two percent die. From what I can tell inhalation can cause 50 to 60 percent death rate if not treated. So if a rabbit doesn't look healthy keep a wide berth. I don't care if it is Rocky Mountain Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, or Bubonic Plague, they are all nasties.

What makes Tularemia confusing is that depending on how you contracted the disease your symptoms will be different. Enough to confuse most doctors especially when you factor in that the disease is now rare.
A much different story in WWII when the disease was common. The United States was very different from now. Farmers alone made up 21 percent of the labor force. Produce from victory gardens and rabbits were what was for dinner, not beef as today's slogan implies. Rabbit on the table would include domestic and wild though I'd guess it was wild more than domestic that caused the problem. Kirk's grandpa raised beagles to hunt rabbits and that was pretty common also. There is a vaccine against Tularemia and Kirk's dad remembers getting several shots for different types of tick fevers, this being one of them. He  spoke to our son of a friend that died from Tularemia.

My oldest sister also remembers tick shots but I don't remember such things. I do remember the sugar cubes with the red dot of medicine on top that we ate and they said was to protect against polio. I wished that all my vaccines were in that form.  

Then United States change. People moved to the cities. They seldom go outside and sit inside watching television, playing computer games and the like. Not much risk of rabbit fever there. Farmers have become a dying breed. The average age of a farmer in 2011 is 58 in the US, 58 in Australia, and 66 in Japan. People don't roam outdoors like they use to. And many parks and area you are not allowed to get off the trail. So except do it yourselfers, no one eats rabbit. When was the last time you saw it on your local restaurants menu, never.

But the thing that I found far more disturbing was that fish and birds can get Tularemia. Never heard of a case like I have from rabbit but I guess it is possible. The disease can stay alive in water and the soil for weeks.  That is why the CDC considers it a possible biological weapon, particularly as a airborne contaminate.

Since Tularemia is potentially fatal ,if not treated early, it is wise to check things out and in our son's case check it out several times until you get an answer that feels right. Since our son is an avid hunter and has a bird dog, he is at a greater risk. He pulls ticks off of the dog and himself particularly in the spring. I remember pulling a good share off of our kids when they were growing up. It is a part of rural life so beware. Not all ticks just suck blood. Some give more than they take. 

No comments:

Post a Comment