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Pueblo health officials warn of “rabbit fever”

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) — A rabbit in Pueblo County has tested positive for tularemia, a bacteria-based disease found in many mammals who live close to the ground like rodents and hares.

“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,” Vicki Carlton, program manager at PDPHE, said in a statement.

Typical signs of infection include fever, headaches and coughing. There are currently no reports of human cases of tularemia.

The rabbit that tested positive is one of many that have developed the disease in Pueblo County in the past. Previous cases were primarily found in Pueblo West, north and south of US Highway 50.

Hunters who skin animals should use gloves to minimize the risk of infection. The disease is treatable in humans by antibiotics.

Dogs and cats can also contract tularemia. Health officials caution pet owners to make sure they keep pets on a leash when outdoors and away from any dead animals. Routine tick and flea protection treatment will also help protect pets from the disease.

Other 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. 

·        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.

For additional information, visit the CDC website:  www.cdc.gov/tularemia.

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