Health officials in Jefferson County, CO are reporting a rabbit found in the Golden/Lakewood area (near South Table Mountain Park) has died from tularemia, an uncommon, but serious, infectious disease.
This is the first positive case of tularemia in an animal in Colorado in 2018, and the first positive case of tularemia in an animal in Jefferson County since 2015.
Tularemia is often spread through the bite of infected ticks and deer flies or through handling infected sick or dead animals, like rabbits or other rodents. Though less common, the disease can also be spread by eating the meat of infected rabbits or by inhaling airborne bacteria or drinking food or water contaminated with urine from an infected animal.
Though tularemia is rare in Colorado, there are about 200 human cases of the disease in the U.S. each year. Treatment with antibiotics is effective during early stages of the diseases, but if diagnosis and appropriate treatment are delayed, life-threatening complications may follow. Medical care should be obtained as soon as symptoms appear.
Symptoms include fever, non-healing skin ulcer at the site of infection and swollen and painful lymph glands. If the infection is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, the symptoms include a sore throat, mouth sores, abdominal pain and diarrhea. If the bacteria is inhaled, pneumonia can develop with symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, dry cough and progressive weakness.