Jefferson County Public Health has been notified of the presence of dead rabbits found at South Table Mountain Park. Jefferson County Public Health will investigate and if possible, send a specimen for testing to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory. Due to positive tests in rabbits for tularemia this year in southern Jefferson County, and  last year, in the South Table Mountain Park area,  Jefferson County Public Health continues to recommend that the public take precautions while enjoying outdoor recreation.

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

Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. It is also called “rabbit fever” and rabbits, hares, beavers and rodents are especially susceptible. Humans can also be infected with the bacteria, which is treatable with appropriate antibiotics.

Tularemia does not spread from person to person. Tularemia occurs year-round throughout the United States, except in Hawaii.
In Colorado, there are generally two peak seasons: in May associated with tick bites and in October and November associated
with rabbit hunting season. Colorado reports a few human cases of tularemia every year. “Tularemia is not uncommon in Colorado and the risk to the public is very low in this instance,” states JCPH Environmental Health Services Director, Jim Rada.

Jefferson County Public Health advises citizens to follow basic safety precautions to avoid exposure to animal-borne diseases,

  • Do not handle sick or dead animals, instruct children to leave wildlife alone
  • Keep pets on leash and do not allow them to disturb sick or dead animals
  • Wash hands thoroughly following recreation on trails
  • Use protective clothing and insect repellents to avoid deerfly and tick bites
  • Conduct frequent checks for ticks

Symptoms usually appear 3-5 days after exposure and can include high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a sore or lesion at the site
where the bacteria entered the body.  In addition, if the bacteria are ingested, such as swallowing contaminated water, a person may have a sore throat, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea.  Persons who develop symptoms should contact their physician or health care provider.