WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - The Wichita County Health District has confirmed that the Iowa Park man with the potentially deadly bacterial disease got the infection in Wichita County.
Family members say Homer Brown who owns Brown's Service Center in Wichita Falls was mowing his lawn at his home in Iowa Park when he accidentally ran over baby rabbits in the tall grass. His wife Michelle Brown says their dog who brought one of the rabbits home got sick in late August and Homer came down with flu-like symptoms at the end of September. He is now in Dallas getting specialized treatment at Baylor University Medical Center.
"We were waiting on some lab results to come back and what we have determined is that even though this individual had traveled to some states where tularemia occurs we feel like this is more than likely a local transmission."
Local - and rare for our area. Tularemia is a potentially deadly bacterial infection. Health department officials say symptoms of the disease are normally flu-like - fever, swollen glands, and general discomfort. It comes from tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals like rabbits and rats and ingesting contaminated water.
"The individual came into contact to a rabbit that had been dead that his dog also came into contact with. The dog was sick prior to the gentleman becoming ill."
Homer Brown's wife Michelle says he has masses of infection in his lungs and doctors are going to do a scan of his heart to make sure the infection hasn't spread. Health department officials say with the rat infestation and large rabbit populations they want the public to be aware and take precautions.
"If there is a dead or sick animal in your yard. If you are out hunting to make sure you wear gloves at all times. If you are picking up a dead animal - if you are skinning or cleaning a dead animal wear gloves and then when you are done be sure to wash your hands thoroughly."
Health department officials also recommend wearing a mask and gloves when mowing or gardening. Tularemia can be deadly if the symptoms aren't caught early and the disease progresses. Health department officials say the good news is - it can usually be treated with antibiotics.
The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person. Only animal to person. Health department officials say Homer Brown's case may be an isolated one. They say we have not had a case in the area before and there is no need to panic. They just want to be proactive and let you know so you can take the appropriate precautions.
Health department officials say keep an eye on your pets especially if they catch or kill rabbits and rodents. If they start having flu-like symptoms and aren't eating or drinking take them to the vet and be sure to let the vet knows there has been a case of Tulameria in the area because most vets aren't used to checking for that.