Kosovo Institute for Public Health declared today an epidemic of tularemia in the province, BETA news agency reported.
“The Committee for the Prevention of infectious diseases at the Ministry of Health today declared an epidemic of tularemia in Kosovo. All the teams on the ground are activated in order to prevent new cases of the disease,” said the statement.
From January 1 to February 10 there were 206 cases of tularemia reported.
“So far there was not a single fatal case of this disease,” said the statement.
An outbreak of tularemia already occurred in Kosovo in 1999-2000. From 1999 until now, 1,469 cases of tularemia were reported, according to the Institute.
Tularemia (also known as Pahvant Valley plague, rabbit fever, deer fly fever, and Ohara’s fever) is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis.
Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including: tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals, ingestion of contaminated water, laboratory exposure, inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols.
Francisella tularensis is very infectious. A small number (10-50 or so organisms) can cause disease. If F. tularensis were used as a weapon, the bacteria would likely be made airborne for exposure by inhalation. People who inhale an infectious aerosol would generally experience severe respiratory illness, including life-threatening pneumonia and systemic infection.
Symptoms usually appear 3 to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria, but can take as long as 14 days and are vary depending upon the route of infection. Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
The bacteria that cause tularemia occur widely in nature and could be isolated and grown in quantity in a laboratory, although manufacturing an effective aerosol weapon would require considerable sophistication.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regard F. tularensis as a viable biological warfare agent, and it has been included in the biological warfare programs of the United States, Soviet Union and Japan at various times.