The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported the first local case of tularemia, a rare infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said the case is a man in his 60s who lives in southern Taiwan and has underlying health conditions, including hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.
The man had not visited another country, had not been directly exposed to animals and he does not have a pet, Guo said, adding that there are bushes and fish farms near his house, and wild cats are often seen in the area.
Photo: Lee Jung-ping, Liberty Times
The man sought medical treatment at a hospital for a fever, chills and diarrhea, and genome sequencing on the bacterial strain from his blood sample suggested a high similarity with the bacterium Francisella tularensis, which causes tularemia, so he was reported as a suspected case on Aug. 24, Guo said.
The man was diagnosed with tularemia after a second test, his symptoms were relieved after treatment and he has been discharged from hospital, Guo said.
The man’s family members and close contacts have not displayed similar symptoms, Guo added.
Tularemia was listed as a notifiable communicable disease in 2007 and the man is the first local case detected in Taiwan, he said.
The first case of tularemia was imported from the US and reported in 2011, he added.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said tularemia is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to people, and it mainly affects rabbits, hares, and field mice and other rodents, but also other mammals.
Tularemia is highly contagious and can spread from animals to people in several ways, including insect bites, such as ticks that have bitten an infected animal; or direct exposure to sick or dead animals, Lin said.
People can also get infected through contaminated food or water, eating undercooked meat of an infected animal, or by inhaling airborne bacteria from contaminated soil, he said.
Serious complications associated with tularemia include sepsis and if it is left untreated, the fatality rate can reach as high as 30 to 60 percent, Lin said, adding that it can usually be effectively treated using antibiotics.
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