I woke up on a recent Wednesday morning to a fresh scent of fall in the air, and a crisp fog rolling over the Blue Ridge Mountains that I now call my home. As I packed the car with the things I need for classes for the day and I saw a rabbit at the side of the garage. I did not notice much about it at first, but as the minutes roll on I noted it didn’t seem to fear people or the fact I was loading my car a mere ten feet away.
With a few extra moments before I needed to leave for class, my inquisitive veterinary mind wanted to investigate the rabbit to make sure it was ok. I took a stick I found in the yard and as I moved closer, I noticed the rabbit appeared to be sitting upright but with a depressed expression and labored breathing. In hopes it would hop off, using the stick, I gently poked the rabbit but received no response. Concerned for it but running out of time, I grabbed a water dish and some carrots and placed them in front of it, hoping it would be in better condition when I got home.
The thought of the rabbit continued to cloud my mind for the rest of the day and I presented the case to one of my professors, a veterinarian. He suspected it could be tularemia, or rabbit fever, which occurs in wild rabbits. Tularemia happens to also be very easily aerosolized and is considered a category A bioterrorism agent. I hurried home after classes and found our new sick friend, whom we named Tula, to have had deceased while we were away. Proper disposal was key in containing any other further infection, human or animal, and the rest of my evening was filled with phone calls to officials on how to handle the situation from there.
My week was eventful, to say the least, and in addition to the load of incredible things I am learning in my classes, it’s great to be able to continue to learn and grow outside of the classroom every day.