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Rodents and lagomorphs
Meningitis and orchitis in a hare (Lepus europaeus) infected with Francisella tularensis


In southern Belgium, a brown hare (Lepus europaeus) was found moribund and killed for ethical reason. The animal was transmitted for postmortem examination. Major histopathological findings consisted of multifocal subacute necrotising meningitis and multifocal subacute necrotising orchitis. Infection with Francisella tularensis was confirmed by both bacteriological isolation and detection by real-time PCR. Further, subtyping of F tularensis colonies stated that it was F tularensis subspecies holarctica biovar I. It is the first case of tularaemia detected in wildlife in Belgium since 2003. The event pushed health professionals to communicate with hunters and other groups with outdoor activities about the Francisella risk and the ways to take care of it, such as wearing gloves to handle found-dead or hunted hares and taking protective measures against tick bites.

  • Zoonoses
  • Wildlife
  • Rabbits
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