Pueblo, CO, June 3, 2020 – Public Health Officials have confirmed a wild rabbit has tested positive for tularemia in Pueblo County. This positive wild rabbit is one of many historically in Pueblo County especially in the area of Pueblo West, north and south of Highway 50. There have not been any reports of human contact with dead rabbits in the county or any human cases of tularemia at this time.
“Pueblo residents are advised tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and hares and on the ground where these animals may be active,” stated Vicki Carlton, program manager at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Carlton added, “Human tularemia cases are rare, but people who have been exposed to contaminated soil, drinking contaminated water, or inhaling the bacteria are at risk for developing the disease.”
Tularemia, “rabbit fever ”can be spread through soil contaminated with the droppings or urine of sick animals such as rabbits and tularemia-causing bacteria can aerosolize and be inhaled when a person mows, blows leaves, or turns up soil. 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.
“Because tularemia is known to be in Pueblo County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken,” emphasized Carlton.
Recommended precautions include:
- Avoid handling wild animals.
- When outdoors near places where wild rabbits or rodents are present, wear insect repellent containing DEET.
- Use a dust mask when mowing or doing yard work. Do not mow over animal carcasses.
- Leash your pets when outdoors and keep them away from dead animals.
- Routinely use a tick and flea prevention treatment on pets.
- If a dead animal must be moved, avoid direct contact with the carcass. Wear insect repellent to protect yourself from the its fleas or ticks and use a long-handled shovel to scoop up the carcass.
- Place the carcass in a garbage bag and dispose in an outdoor trash receptacle. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
- Wear proper footwear outdoors where dead animals have been found.
- Do not go barefoot or wear sandals while gardening, mowing or landscaping.
- Wear gloves while gardening or landscaping and wash your hands after these activities.
- Do not drink unpurified water from streams or lakes or allow your pets to drink surface waters.
If you hunt, trap or skin animals, take additional steps:
- Use impervious gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
- Cook the meat of wild rabbits thoroughly to a temperature of 165°F or higher.
For additional information about tularemia view www.cdc.gov/tularemia.