Tularaemia (Rabbit Fever)

Francisella tularensis

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Changed on: 08.04.2019
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elektronenmikroskopische Aufnahme von Francisella tularensis

Tularaemia (rabbit fever, deer fly fever, Ohara’s fever, Pahvant Valley Plague) is a northern hemisphere bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans and which is caused by Francisella tularensis. There is an active tularaemia hotspot in Austria’s far north-eastern regions connected to the endemic territories in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, along the March and Thaya Rivers. Sporadic cases of tularaemia are also possible in other Austrian regions. There is another tularaemia hotspot in southern Burgenland and the neighbouring Styrian region, where the disease has been detected in hares. Individual tularaemia cases in hares and humans were also observed in Upper Austria.

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caption
elektronenmikroskopische Aufnahme von Francisella tularensis

Tularaemia (rabbit fever, deer fly fever, Ohara’s fever, Pahvant Valley Plague) is a northern hemisphere bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans and which is caused by Francisella tularensis. There is an active tularaemia hotspot in Austria’s far north-eastern regions connected to the endemic territories in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, along the March and Thaya Rivers. Sporadic cases of tularaemia are also possible in other Austrian regions. There is another tularaemia hotspot in southern Burgenland and the neighbouring Styrian region, where the disease has been detected in hares. Individual tularaemia cases in hares and humans were also observed in Upper Austria.

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Transmission

Transmission

The disease is transmitted via contact and smear infections or the squirting of fluids containing the pathogen (especially when preparing hares), but also via tick or insect bites. Droplet or particulate infections can occur during the skinning process of infected hares and while working with agricultural products, such as hay, straw or sugar beet, if they have been contaminated by the faeces of cadavers of mice.

Oral infections caused by contaminated food or water are possible.

Symptoms

Symptoms

There is a variety of symptoms depending on the infection route and the area where the pathogen entered the body. The common cutano glandular and the rarer oculoglandular form are caused by contact or smear infections or the squirting of contaminated fluids, and the cutano glandular form also via tick and insect bites. The thoracal or oral glandular form develops after an infection via particulates or droplets. The abdominal or oral glandular forms occur following an oral infection caused by contaminated food or water.

While it has been observed that an infection via hares results mostly in the ulceroglandular or glandular form of the disease with swollen lymph nodes on the upper extremities, the entry point of the pathogen tends to be in the lower extremities in infections via arthropods.

Sick hares may exhibit unusual movements and a lack of flight behaviour.

Prevention, Control

Prevention, Control

Dead sick and culled hares, as well as hunted hares with abnormal internal organ changes must never be thrown into the waste or buried under any circumstances, but be sent for examination to the IVET in Mödling or disposed of  using an epidemic-proof method. 
As hares with chronic kidney tularaemia excrete Francisella via urine over a longer period, hunters should pay particular attention to killing sick animals with unusual behaviour to prevent the further spread of the disease.

Sick, dead or culled hares should not be skinned, but should only by touched using gloves and immediately packed safely to prevent the infection of humans via the inhaling of dust containing the pathogen or the touching of infected fur, blood or animal waste. 

Detection methods

  • Culture Isolation 
  • PCR

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