Public Health Officials in Pueblo confirmed a wild rabbit tested positive for tularemia in southwestern Pueblo County. The rabbit appeared to have no contact with people and was collected from the Hatchet Ranch area of Pueblo County.
“Pueblo residents are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some of the mammals – especially rabbits, rodents and hares, and on the ground where these animals may be active,” stated Vicki Carlton, program manager in the Environmental Health and Emergency Preparedness division at the Pueblo City-County Health Department. She added, “Although there are no human cases of tularemia identified in Pueblo so far this year, Colorado has experienced human tularemia cases in people who have been exposed to contaminated soil, drinking contaminated water or inhaling bacteria.”
Public health has been monitoring rabbit die-offs in Pueblo County over the past few months. A rabbit tested positive on May 5, 2016 in the Liberty Point area of Pueblo West, confirming tularemia is present in Pueblo County. Public Health specialists continue to monitor tularemia activity.
“Because tularemia is known to be in Pueblo County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken,” emphasized Carlton.
Tularemia, “rabbit fever,” is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans by the handling of sick or dead animals infected with tularemia. Infection can also occur from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies) as well as exposure to soil and vegetation. Hunters who skin animals without gloves and are exposed to infected blood through an open wound are also at risk.
Typical signs of infection in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics; therefore should you have any of these early signs, contact your medical provider.
Dogs and cats also get tularemia by eating infected rabbits or other rodents and through tick and deer fly bites. If your pet shows symptoms of illness including fever, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores, take it to a veterinarian promptly. Tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.