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Friday, November 4, 2011

Biological war Rare strain of disease found in Tasmania, Australia - 4th Nov 2011

A rare strain of a disease never seen in the southern hemisphere before has been discovered in Tasmania.

Two women contracted tularaemia earlier this year after being bitten and scratched by sick possums in western Tasmania.

Tularemia is an infectious bacterial disease which affects a range of species and is transferred through direct contact or biting ticks.

The Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Chrissie Pickin, says while there are deadly strains of tularaemia, the Tasmanian strain is mild.

"Both cases have recovered, but even this mild strain can make you feel pretty unwell and lead to a persistent skin infection requiring a large amount of antibiotics."

Veterinarian Dr James Harris encountered the disease in Northern America and says it has a range of effects on humans.

"It causes a septicemia, an infection which circulates in the blood, and pneumonia and unless it is treated it can be a fatal disease."

"[It can be] treated with antibiotics very successfully," Dr Harris said.

While the disease is well known in North America and parts of Europe and Asia, it is believed the Tasmanian case is the first in the southern hemisphere.

The Health Department says people should avoid handling wild animals and see their GP if scratched or bitten. Source