Tularemia was reported in Colorado (where I live) last summer and the first cases have already occurred this summer. Tularemia (commonly known as rabbit fever or deer fly fever) is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are passed between animals and humans. Mammals are susceptible to tularemia but rabbits, hares, and rodents are highly susceptible and will die in large numbers during an outbreak. Tick bites (a vector for the bacteria) are a common form of infection. Handling infected animals, breathing in the aerosols, or drinking contaminated water can also lead to infection. Symptoms of tularemia include-fever, swollen glands, and skin ulcers (among other symptoms depending on the area of infection). Tularemia is treatable but if left untreated it will be fatal. Although it is rare, there has been a recent rise of tularemia in Colorado. Zoonotic diseases, such as tularemia, can be influenced by multiple factors such as habitat fragmentation, urbanization, pollution, and climate change. When ideal conditions are present these diseases become common fixtures in the environment. Researchers are trying to better understand what those ideals conditions might be and how they come about. By understanding those factors researchers can predict when outbreaks may happen in the future and better prepare the public. I am fascinated by wildlife health issues and how they may be indicators for environmental health. Are we seeing more cases of tularemia because of encroaching development into wilderness areas? El Nino? The zombie apocalypse? I for one blame it on the zombies bunnies. About the Illustration: This is a straight up acrylic painting. The many rabbits in my yard (and the reports of tularemia) inspired this post. Rabbit fever is nothing to laugh at but I still love seeing bunnies…from a distance.
More Information: Tularemia in Colorado: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/DC_CD_Zoo-Tularemia-in-Colorado.pdf CSU Tularemia Page: http://source.colostate.edu/how-to-avoid-tularemia-rare-rabbit-fever-reported-in-northern-colorado/ CU Tularemia Page: http://www.colorado.edu/news/features/take-precautions-against-tularemia CDC Tularemia Page: http://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/