State officials say this has been Wyoming’s worst year on record for human cases of the disease Tularemia, or rabbit fever. Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is passed to humans by animals, insects, untreated water, and even contaminated dust. Once you have the disease, symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, ulcers, and diarrhea.
Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti says they have not pinpointed any one factor leading to the uptick in reports.
"I don’t know that we have a definitive explanation as to why we’re seeing so much activity this year, but it is certainly unusual. We do see 1 to 2 cases typically, and this year we’re now actually up to 12," says Deti.
That’s twice as many as 2001 - the next highest year on record – which saw 6 cases. Several of the 12 people this year have been hospitalized and one died. Tularemia is more commonly reported in warmer summer months, but can be contracted at any time of the year.
To help protect against the disease, Deti recommends cooking game meat fully, avoiding drinking untreated water, exercising caution when handling animals, and protecting yourself against ticks.