Rabbit Tests Positive For Tularemia In Pueblo West

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Public health officials in Pueblo announced Thursday that a rabbit tested positive for tularemia in Pueblo West.

The rabbit was collected in the 1000 Block of West Saginaw Drive after the rabbit had contact with a child.

Here's the text of their news release:

"Tularemia is similar to plague. It is typically found in animals, especially rabbits," said Scott Cowan, program manager of the Disease Prevention and Emergency Preparedness Division at the Pueblo City-County Health Department. "Tularemia can be passed to humans or animals through the bite of infected insects, most commonly ticks and deer flies, and by handling infected, sick, or dead animals," said Cowan. The disease can also be passed to people or animals if they eat meat or drink water infected by the bacteria.

"It is very important not to pet or come in contact with wild animals," stated Cowan. He explained, "A child pet this rabbit before the rabbit died, potentially exposing the child to the bacteria. The child currently has no symptoms of tularemia and is on a fever watch."

Tularemia is a potentially serious illness that occurs naturally in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis found in animals (especially rodents, rabbits, and prairie dogs).
People can get tularemia multiple ways:
· being bitten by an infected tick, deerfly or other insect
· handling infected animal carcasses
· eating or drinking contaminated food or water
· breathing in the bacteria, F. tularensis

Tularemia is not spread from person to person. People who have tularemia do not need to be isolated. People who have been exposed to the tularemia bacteria should be treated as soon as possible. The disease can be fatal if it is not treated with the right antibiotics.
Symptoms to tularemia usually occur 3-5 days after exposure may include:
· sudden fever
· chills
· headaches
· diarrhea
· muscle aches
· joint pain
· dry cough
· progressive weakness

People can also develop pneumonia and may have the following symptoms: chest pain, bloody sputum, trouble breathing and even sometimes stop breathing.
Other symptoms of tularemia depend on how a person was exposed to the tularemia bacteria. These symptoms can include ulcers on the skin or mouth, swollen and painful lymph glands, swollen and painful eyes, and a sore throat.
The Pueblo City-County Health Department recommends the following to protect against the disease:
· Avoid all contact with wild rabbits, squirrels and rodents; do not feed or handle them.
· Avoid ticks. The best protection for pets, especially cats, is to keep them indoors. If outdoors with your pets, protect them with a flea collar,
keeping them out of heavily wooded areas can provide additional protection, as these areas are ideal for ticks to live.
· Stay out of areas wild rodents inhabit. If you enter areas with wild rodents, wear insect repellent containing DEET or treat clothing with
repellent containing permethrin.
· Prevent your pets from hunting or eating wild rodents, especially rabbits.
· Never touch sick or dead animals with your bare hands. If an animal must be moved, use a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage
bag, and place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.
· Avoid drinking unpurified water from streams or lakes and prevent your pets from doing the same.
· See a physician if you become ill with a high fever and/or a swollen lymph node. Tularemia is a treatable illness when diagnosed early.
· See a veterinarian if you pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.

"It is important for pet owners keep their animals from roaming outside as they can be exposed to tularemia when hunting rabbits and/or prairie dogs," stated Cowan. "Do not let your pets roam, do not let them eat dead animals, protect your pets with a flea and tick collar and keep an eye on their health and take to the veterinarian if symptoms develop."

Note any change in the behavior of your pets especially cats, as well as notice activity of rodents, rabbits, and prairie dogs or livestock, and consult a veterinarian if your pet develops unusual symptoms.
This is the first identified case of tularemia in animals in Pueblo County this year. No human cases of tularemia have been reported this year.