PUEBLO, Colo. -

The Pueblo City-County Health Department says a wild rabbit that was found in the Liberty Point neighborhood of Pueblo West has tested positive for rabbit fever.

The rabbit was found on Mountainside Drive. The health department says it does not believe the animal had contact with any people.

“Residents near Liberty Point in Pueblo West, are advised that Tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some of the mammals – especially rabbits, rodents and hares,” said Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods, public health director at the Pueblo City-County Health Department.

A die-off of rabbits in the area over the past few weeks has occurred and it's now believed that Tularemia is the culprit.

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

“Because Tularemia is known to be in Pueblo County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken,” emphasized Dr. Christine Nevin-Woods.

Tularemia, “rabbit fever,” is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans by the handling of sick or dead animals. Infection can also be transmitted 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 include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. Pueblo’s last reported human case of tularemia occurred in 2006.

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.

Recommended precautions include:

  • Avoid handling wild 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 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 with soap and water afterwards.
  • Wear proper footwear outdoors where dead animals have been found.
  • Routinely use a tick and flea prevention treatment 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° or higher.