PUEBLO, Colo. — On Tuesday, Public Health Officials announced Pueblo County’s second human tularemia case in 2022.
Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” can be spread through soil contaminated with the droppings or urine of sick animals such as rabbits, and tularemia-causing bacteria can aerosolize and be inhaled when a person mows, blows leaves, or turns up soil.
“Human tularemia cases are rare; however, this is the first time since 2000 Pueblo has experienced two cases in the same year,” said Alicia Solis, program manager at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. “Pueblo residents, especially those in Pueblo West, are urged to take extra precautions to protect themselves from tularemia causing bacteria that is most often found in rodents, rabbits, and contaminated soil, dirt or water.”
Typical signs of infection in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics; contact your medical provider if these early signs are present.
Dogs and cats can also get tularemia by eating infected rabbits or other rodents and through tick and deer fly bites. Be sure to use flea and tick prevention to protect your pets. If your pet shows symptoms of illness including fever, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores, take the pet to a veterinarian promptly. Tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.
- Avoid handling wild animals.
- When outdoors near places where wild rabbits or rodents are present, wear insect repellent with DEET.
- Use a dust mask when mowing or doing yard work. Do not mow over animal carcasses.
- Wear shoes covering your feet when 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.
- 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 insect repellent to protect yourself from 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.
If you hunt, trap, or skin animals, take added steps:
- Use gloves that do not allow fluids to pass through when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
- Cook the meat of wild rabbits thoroughly to a temperature of 165°F or higher.
For more information about tularemia, visit www.cdc.gov/tularemia.