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Dead rabbit found near Yoder tests positive for Tularemia

YODER, Colo. - El Paso County Public Health says a rabbit that was found dead near Yoder in El Paso County has tested positive for Tularemia.

Residents near Yoder, south of Highway 94 and west of Yoder, are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some of the mammals – especially rabbits, rodents and hares.

Public Health specialists who have been monitoring plague activity in the area tested a dead wild rabbit for plague Wednesday August 26, and discovered the rabbit was instead infected with tularemia, also known as "rabbit fever." Plague infection was identified in the area August 21. No human cases of either infection have been reported.

Public Health specialists continue to monitor tularemia and plague activity, and are providing public health information to residents in the area.

"Because tularemia is endemic in El Paso County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken," said Program Manager Lee Griffen.

Tularemia is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans by the handling of sick or dead animals infected with tularemia. Infection can also arise from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies). 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 are similar to plague and 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. El Paso County's last reported human case of tularemia occurred in 2010.

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 the veterinarian promptly. Tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.

Recommended precautions include:

  • Avoid handling sick or dead animals.
  • Leash your pets when outdoors and keep them away from dead animals.
  • When outdoors near places where wild rabbits or rodents are present, wear an insect repellent containing DEET.
  • If a dead animal must be moved, avoid direct contact with it. Put on a repellent to protect yourself from its fleas or ticks, and use a shovel to scoop it up. Place it in a plastic bag and dispose in an outdoor trash receptacle. Wash your hands well afterwards.
  • Wear proper footwear outdoors where dead animals have been found.
  • Routinely use a tick and flea preventative on pets.
  • Avoid mowing over dead animals.

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 degrees, or higher.

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