RALEIGH, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) - Officials with both the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the Wildlife Commission are urging hunters to be wary about rabbit fever after two hunters contracted it this month.
Their warning, reported by the Wilson Times, comes just before the end of rabbit hunting season on Feb. 28.
The disease, tularemia, is a rare and possibly fatal affliction that has already affected two members of a hunting party in the state recently – and has led to a confirmed 17 cases overall since 1999.
“It can make you very, very sick,” Marilyn Haskel, a veterinarian and epidemiologist with the DPH, told the paper. “We want hunters to know you can get very sick and the rabbit can appear very normal.”
Symptoms reportedly include ulcers, swollen lymph glands, or even pneumonia, in addition to other ailments.
Hunters could be exposed to tularemia through tick bites and handling infected bodies of killed rabbits. Eating tainted food could also lead to an infection, the Times is reporting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, tularemia could also play a part in chemical and biological warfare.
The CDC noted, according to the paper, “If [the bacteria] were used as a bioweapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne so they could be inhaled.”