Wild rabbit in Pueblo West tests positive for tularemia

PUEBLO WEST, Colo. - A wild rabbit found in the Kirkwood Drive area of Pueblo West has tested positive for tularemia. 

Tularemia is commonly found in mammals such as rabbits, rodents and hares, according to public health officials.

Tularemia, also known as “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.

“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 the bacteria,” stated Vicki Carlton, program manager in the Environmental Health Division at the Pueblo City-County Health Department. 

Signs of infection in a human include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing

Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics.

Pets can also become infected if they eat a rabbit or other rodents that have tularemia. Symptoms in pets include fever, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores. If you start to see these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian immediately.

Precautions you can take include:

  • Avoid handling wild animals.
  • 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 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.

For additional information about tularemia, view www.cdc.gov/tularemia.

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