Thursday, November 02, 2006

SING A SONG OF FEVER: From rabbits, not blackbirds baked in a pie

A whimsical item came in over the e-mail notification transom, ostensibly linked to the keyword bioterror.

The Martha's Vinyard Times informs a man has written a song about tularemia, showcased at a science conference on the pathogen. Caused by the bacterium, Francisella tularensis, it is well known on the island as rabbit fever, a disease that occasionally also afflicted friends of Dick Destiny during rabbit season, decades ago in Schuylkill County, PA. [Generally, they appeared to get it when cleaning rabbits or from tick bites acquired while hunting.]

"The characteristics of tularemia have also thrust it onto the front lines in the war on terror," writes the newspaper. "Scientists around the world consider the bacterium a prime candidate for use as a bioterror agent because it occurs naturally and can be cultured."

Fortunately, no Islamists have as yet shown any facility with Francisella.

But the interesting bit of the story is the song, "Tularemia," by one Tristan Israel, who knows the disease firsthand. (And writing from what you know is always a good dictum to follow, unlike composing about what you don't -- such as engagement in glorious sex at Treblinka.)

"According to Mr. Israel, following a bout with tularemia in 2000 he composed a song, 'Tularemia," continued the newspaper. "Somehow a group of research scientists heard his song and decided the lyrics went well with beer."

Accordingly, from "Tularemia:"

Way back on the Vineyard,
'bout 3 years ago,
my mother she said "Tristan
in Chilmark do not mow!
For some have tried to go there,
yes and some have tried to work,
but the rabbits would not let them
and they quickly fell down cursed"
with...

(Chorus)

Tula...Tularemia,
Tularemia in the air.
Why and where did it come from?
Is it ticks is it skunks is it hares?
Tula...Tularemia,
Tularemia high,
massive antibiotics
and maybe you won't die!

Read the entire story and listen to the tune here.

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