A rabbit found in Pueblo West has tested positive for a disease that health officials describe as “similar to plague.”
The Pueblo City-County Health Department reports the infected rabbit was found on the 1000 block of W. Saginaw Dr. 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.
The disease, called tularemia, is caused by a bacterium found in animals like rodents, rabbits or prairie dogs. It can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected insect, handling infected carcasses, consuming contaminated food or water and breaking in the bacteria. It is not transmitted from person to person.
The infective animal was discovered by Charlie Eckerson, who says the animal began to convulse before it died. He called the Health Department right away.
"I noticed this rabbit and he looked sick," Eckerson said. "I moved over close to him and he didn't move."
Tularemia symptoms usually begin three to five days after exposure. They often include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness. Pneumonia may also develop.
It can be fatal if it is not treated with the right antibiotics.
To avoid the disease, the Pueblo City-County Health Department recommends avoiding areas where ticks or wild rodents live. If you enter such an area, wear insect repellent containing DEET or treat clothing with repellent containing permethrin. Humans and pets should also avoid drinking from an unpurified water source and physical contact with wild animals, alive or dead.
Additional information is available about tularemia from the Center for Disease Control website www.cdc.gov/Tularemia/ or by calling the Pueblo City-County Health Department 583-4323.