In 2003, tularemia was suspected to be the cause of severe illness in two orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) and the cause of death in a third orangutan at an urban zoo. The two sick orangutans were treated two times under chemical immobilization with i.v. doxycycline, fluids, and antipyretic drugs, followed by a sustained course of oral doxycycline. The rest of the orangutan group was treated prophylactically with oral doxycycline. Postmortem diagnosis was obtained via immunohistochemistry and bacterial culture that revealed Francisella tularensis type A. Tularemia was also confirmed in the two surviving orangutans via paired serology testing. In addition, F. tularensis was identified in two wild rabbit carcasses submitted during a die-off, several weeks prior to the tularemia outbreak in the apes, indicating that rabbits were possibly a reservoir for tularemia within the zoo premises.
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Vol. 40 • No. 2