The principal of Arnoldsburg Elementary School has been seriously ill in Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

Donna Burge-Tetrick was reportedly infected by tularemia, sometimes called Rabbit Fever. The school's secretary Connie Badgett said Tetrick was released from the hospital yesterday.

Tetrick reportedly acquired the disease while "working up" deer meat on November 27th, by touching her eye. She began to feel ill on December 2nd with flu-like symptoms, going to a Summersville hospital.

Tetrick, a resident of Route 19, Sutton, was treated for six hours in Summersville and released, becoming more distressed upon returning home. Family members took her to the Braxton County Hospital, where she was treated from December 9th to 11th.

Her condition was unimproved, and she was taken by ambulance to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, where she continued with a high fever and other symptoms, and then diagnosed.

"We're hopeful she'll be back to work after the Christmas break," said Badgett. "We really miss her."

Tularemia, or rabbit fever, is a bacterial disease associated with both animals and humans. Although many wild and domestic animals can be infected, the rabbit is most often involved in disease outbreaks. Tularemia is relatively rare.

The disease occurs throughout the United States in all months of the year. The incidence, however, is higher for adults in early winter during rabbit hunting season and for children during the summer when ticks and deer flies are abundant.

Many routes of human exposure to the tularemia bacteria are known to exist. The common routes include inoculation of the skin or mucous membranes with blood or tissue while handling infected animals, the bite of an infected tick, contact with fluids from infected deer flies or ticks, or handling or eating insufficiently cooked rabbit meat. Less common means of spread are drinking contaminated water, inhaling dust from contaminated soil or handling contaminated pelts or paws of animals. Tularemia is not spread from person to person.

Symptoms vary, depending on the route of introduction. In those cases where a person becomes infected from handling an animal carcass, symptoms can include a slow-growing ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the skin (usually on the hand) and swollen lymph nodes. If the bacteria is inhaled, a pneumonia-like illness can follow. Those who ingest the bacteria may report a sore throat, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.

Symptoms can appear between one and 14 days after exposure, but usually do so after three to five days.

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