Rabbit fever is a late-summer affliction

12.8.2013

<p>Rabbit fever is a zoonotic disease, i.e. one that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The disease is caused by the bacterium <em>Francisella tularensis</em>, which can infect several animal species in various ways. Rabbit fever, or <em>tularemia</em>, is typically a late-summer disease. The disease is spread by bloodsucking insects, which is why rabbit fever is most commonly contracted in the warm season.</p>

Rabbit fever is encountered all over Finland, but the data collected by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira indicates the disease is most common in the region of Ostrobothnia.. There is considerable variance in the number of cases each year.

Infection can occur in many ways
Even a very small amount of tularemia bacteria will cause a human to contract the disease. People are usually infected with rabbit fever through a mosquito bite. In order to guard against infection, protection against insect bites is recommended on late-summer woodland hikes.

In humans, symptoms of rabbit fever include high fever and enlarged lymph glands. The bacterium will cause conjunctivitis if introduced to the eyes.

Rabbit fever is not normally communicable between humans.

Many animal species are susceptible to infection, but the severity of the disease varies considerably between species. Mountain and brown hares are particularly susceptible to rabbit fever and usually die quickly after contracting the disease. Rodents (voles, mice, lemmings, muskrats, beavers) are often carriers of the rabbit fever bacterium in the wild.

”Dogs are resistant to rabbit fever. Only isolated cases of dogs contracting rabbit fever are known in the scientific literature, and rabbits are much more resistant to the bacterium than hares. Infections have been reported in cats, which is probably related to their habit of catching small rodents,” says Senior Researcher Minna Nylund.

Rabbit fever can be contracted through cuts in the hands or through the mucous membranes when handling the carcass of an animal that died of the disease. The disease can also be contracted by inhalation or by ingesting contaminated water or food. Rabbit fever bacteria can survive in frozen meat for up to three years.

Evira studies animals in the wild
In Evira, post-mortem examinations of wild animals have been concentrated at the Oulu office, where you can deliver mountain or brown hares found dead. The office address is: Evira, Matkahuolto, Oulu. Evira pays for the expenses.

You must not handle a dead animal with bare hands, and you should wash your hands immediately after handling an animal carcass.

Before sending a dead hare we request that you contact Evira
on tel. 040 515 4325.

Additional information:
Senior Researcher Minna Nylund
Production Animal and Wildlife Health Research Unit
tel. 040 489 3393 or the Oulu office, tel. 040 515 4325.


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