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Rabbit Fever Cases on the Rise in Americans, Study Says

Update Date: Dec 05, 2015 09:43 AM EST

A rare health condition known as rabbit fever is on the rise in humans, health officials reported.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total number of reported cases of rabbit fever - medically known as tularemia - this year so far is 235, which is the highest ever recorded since 1984. The annual rate over the past twenty years has remained around the 125 mark.

The federal officials stated that the states with the highest number of cases were Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. These states had at least 100 cases with one death in an older man. Rabbit fever is treated with antibiotics.

The officials could not find the exact cause or causes behind the spike. They did reason that the weather conditions in certain areas could be helping rodents that are carrying the bacteria live longer. Ticks and deer flies are then more likely to be picking up the bacteria, which they then transfer to people.

People can also catch rabbit fever when they handle dead infected animals or simply by breathing the bacteria in. Due to the fact that people can get ill from breathing in the bacteria, experts have been concerned about the illness becoming an airborne bioterrorism weapon.

Common symptoms of rabbit fever are sudden fever, muscle and joint aches/pain, weakness and headaches. Symptoms typically take three to five days to show up but in some cases, it can manifest 14 days after contact.

Rabbit fever is caused Francisella tularenisis, which attacks the eyes, skin, lymph nodes and lungs. The disease typically affects rodents, birds, sheep, dogs and cats.

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