Saturday, November 5, 2011

0 News: Tickborne Disease Outbreak Hits Australia

Brushtail possum
While there has been some controversy over the existence of Lyme disease in Australia, there is no debate over the existence of another tickborne illness, Tularemia - also known as rabbit fever caused by the bacteria, Francisella tularensis.

There are now two reported cases of Tularemia in residents from Tasmania, though the disease is more common in Asia and the US.

Reading about this news originally reminded me of a film I watched a few years ago, Rabbit Proof Fence - and it made me think that more surveillance than ever is needed for rabbits downunder... However, in this case, it was handling possums which gave the unlucky pair the infection. And even though ticks carrying Tularemia are often found on rabbits, the bacteria can affect 250 different species of mammals and birds.

The bacteria which causes the disease can live in wet environments for months and can be transmitted by contact, eating infected animals and through biting insects such as mosquitos, flies, and ticks.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, joint stiffness and shortness of breath. Complications include bone infection, infection of the sac around the heart(pericarditis), meningitis and pneumonia.

It is treatable with antibiotics but can be fatal if left untreated.

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