Is That Rabbit Fever I Smell?

There had been only one serial death mystery brewing on Albuquerque's west side in late summer, but now there seems to be two. The first one is a string of dead dogs on the west side of Albuquerque. According to KOAT news, more than forty dogs on the west side have been found dead by their owners in the last month, and several others have been reported sick. Symptoms included lethargy, lack of appetite, liver failure, kidney failure, weakness, and no interest in drinking water.

The second mystery may or may not be related to the first. Last Saturday, this commentator, who lives on the west side, found a dead adult rabbit in a public walkway during a walk in his neighborhood with his beagle Ruby. Knowing about the dog deaths and that plague and other diseases carried by rodents are present in the Land of Enchantment, he carefully bagged the cottontail, enshrined it in a closed container, and reported it to 311 who sent it on to Albuquerque's Environmental Health department.

When he got connected to city urban biologist Nick Peterson and told him about the poor rabbit, Nick was concerned enough to come to my house right away to fetch it to see if it could have died from tularemia (also called "rabbit fever"), which he said exists in Albuquerque, mostly in the foothills and the bosque on the east side of the river. But he said, presumably because of the spate of dog deaths, he would like to examine the deceased to make sure that tularemia has not crossed the river.

Item: the New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed 10 cases of plague and 19 cases of tularemia (also called "rabbit fever") in dogs and cats ("higher than average") this year in Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe, Taos and Torrance counties.

Item: Plague and tularemia are bacterial diseases of rodents and rabbits. Human contraction of plague is generally from flea bites, while human contraction of tularemia is from deer fly bites, Department of Health veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad. These illnesses also can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including pets.

Item: "We are seeing recent die-offs of rabbits in several areas of New Mexico from both plague and tularemia," Department of Health veterinarian Dr. Paul Ettestad recently announced; in 2013, the New Mexico Department of Health announced that cases of tularemia, a potentially serious disease carried by rodents, ticks and fleas, were on the rise and had been found in several locations around the state. two cats and one dog from Santa Fe County, a dog from Los Alamos County and a cat from Torrance County

Item: However, what is most alarming is in July the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, the New Mexico Department of Health, and the Bernalillo County Health Protection Section confirmed two cases of human tularemia in Bernalillo County. One of the individuals was likely infected in the bosque, Albuquerque's huge urban woodlands. They are a 74-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman. The woman is currently hospitalized but is improving, while the man has recovered. It is believed the illness was the result of a bite from an infected deer fly.

Item: Symptoms of plague and tularemia in humans are similar and include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, weakness, swollen lymph nodes and possible infection at the bite site.

What is uncertain at this time is the reason for the deaths of the dogs (and the rabbit). When that is determined by the city's urban biologist, this commentator will report that.

Seedpods to Carry About
Will Rogers:"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went. "
John Steinbeck: " Tell about what we're gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages...Tell about that George." -Lennie in Of Mice and Men
Aldo Leopold:"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot."