A North Carolina man has been diagnosed with rabbit fever, and I don't mean that he got overexcited by a cottontail. More accurately known as tularemia, rabbit fever is a rare but serious disease that occasionally affects hunters who've handled infected bunnies.
A second member of the same hunting party has also shown symptoms, but a diagnosis could not be confirmed.
"We’re just asking hunters to take precautions and be aware," Carolyn Rickard, spokeswoman for the N.C. Wildlife Commission, told the Wilson Times.
Rabbit fever has infected 17 North Carolina residents since 1999 and affects approximately 200 Americans each year. It has about a 30-percent mortality rate if left untreated. Both hunters in the latest case are recovering.
Marilyn Haskell, public health veterinarian and epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health, recommends some simple, common-sense steps hunters can take to avoid the risk—albeit a slight one—of infection. According to the Wilson Times, her list includes:
• Use impervious (waterproof) gloves when skinning, handling, and preparing meat for food.
• Cook all meat to 170 degrees.
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling meat and animal carcasses.
• If you develop a fever (signs of the flu), and/or ulcer, skin infection, enlarged lymph nodes or other unusual symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
"[Rabbit fever] can make you very, very sick," Haskell added. "We want hunters to know you can get very sick and the rabbit can appear very normal."