Arizona woman dies of rabbit fever likely contracted from pet dog

An Arizona woman died last June after catching tularemia — a rare infection also known as rabbit fever — from her dog, according to CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Friday.

The 73-year-old woman was evaluated on June 6, 2016 after displaying symptoms of fever, muscle pain and diarrhea for four days. She died five days later from respiratory failure. The woman had multiple comorbidities including a dental infection and Clostridium difficile. Physicians learned she had rabbit fever when her blood test results came back on June 17, 2016.

Health officials believe the woman likely caught the infection from her dog, which was found with a dead rabbit in its mouth in May. Investigators tested the dog after the woman's death and found signs of the infection in its blood. They also found several infected rabbits around the woman's property.

Rabbit fever is caused by the Francisella tularensis bacteria. Symptoms usually start three to five days after exposure, which can occur from insect bites, contact with an infected animal or inhaling the bacteria. Most infections are treated with antibiotics, although the illness can be deadly.

About 125 cases of rabbit fever are reported in Americans annually, according to the CDC.

To learn more about rabbit fever, click here.

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