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'Rabbit Fever' Multiplying

Rare but deadly disease reported spreading in U.S.

Tularemia, the rare and deadly disease that baffled health officials on the Massachusetts resort island of Martha's Vineyard for more than a year, is showing up elsewhere around the country. The Deseret News reports two cases of the disease in Utah.

The disease, also known as "rabbit fever," usually spreads through contact with wild infected rabbits, ticks or deer flies. Because the bacterium can spread so easily through air and water and because it can be so deadly, government officials consider it one of five potential bioterrorism weapons, the story says.

About 500,000 cases of tularemia are reported worldwide each year, including about 300 in the United States, says this overview by Neil R. Chamberlain, Ph.D. Officials in New York, Michigan and Alaska also have posted Web site warnings.

An outbreak of the disease that killed one person and sickened 14 others on Martha's Vineyard last summer apparently was spread by airborne particles of rabbit feces, reports this HealthDay story.

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