Public Health Officials in Pueblo confirmed another wild rabbit has tested positive for tularemia in Pueblo County. This positive rabbit verifies tularemia is throughout the area south of Hwy 50 in Pueblo West, Colorado. All positive confirmed rabbits were reported to have no contact with people.

Image/Gorman Lewis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/Gorman Lewis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“Tularemia is naturally occurring in Pueblo County. Residents are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may always 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 over the past few months and will continue to track tularemia activity throughout Pueblo County. “Because tularemia is known to be in Pueblo County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken,” emphasized Ms. 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.