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21 February 2024

First reported case of rabbit fever in Thailand kills woman

By Agencies


Rabbit fever, a disease that can be lethal if not treated early, has killed a woman in Thailand, marking the country’s first reported case, a health official said Wednesday.

The 37-year-old woman from Prachuap Khiri Khan province, about 230 kilometres (149 miles) south of Bangkok, died last month after experiencing flu-like symptoms, said Thawat Suntrajarn, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Communicable Disease Control.

The woman raised rabbits at her house and also had cancer, which may have made her immune system more susceptible to the bacterial disease, which can be treated with antibiotics if identified early, he said. The results were confirmed by a US laboratory.

No other cases have been reported in Thailand, Thawat said.

Rabbit fever, also known as deer fly fever or tularemia, typically sickens rabbits, hares and rodents. Other mammals, including domestic animals, can also become infected.

In humans, the disease causes skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms. Pneumonia can develop if left untreated, leading to death. The disease is typically transmitted to people via insect bites, from handling infected animals or by drinking contaminated water or eating undercooked meat.

There have been no documented cases of the disease spreading from person to person, according to the World Health Organisation.

The disease is endemic in parts of North America, Europe and Asia. About 200 human cases are reported every year in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It was not immediately clear whether the woman’s rabbits were imported from another country or bred in Thailand.

Thawat said it was the first known case in Thailand, but added others may have gone unreported because the disease is easily treated and difficult to diagnose.

The bacteria can easily be spread via aerosols, making tularemia a disease that public health experts believe could be used as a biological weapon. Others include anthrax, smallpox, botulism and viruses such as Ebola. (AP)