Wild rabbit in northeast Colorado Springs tests positive for tularemia

Wild Rabbit
El Paso County health officials confirmed Thursday, June June 22, a wild rabbit has tested positive for tularemia. / El Paso County Public Health

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A wild rabbit in northeast Colorado Springs has tested positive for tularemia, according to El Paso County Public Health.

Officials announced Thursday the wild rabbit died of tularemia infection, also known as “rabbit fever,” and was tested after a resident in the northeast side of town near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Stetson Hills Boulevard found several dead wild rabbits near a property and alerted health officials.

No human cases of infection have been reported, according to health officials. The last reported human case of tularemia was in 2010.

Residents are advised to remain cautions around wild animals and to take steps to protects pets and children.

If you find dead animals, especially wild rabbits on your property, you are advised to dispose of animals infected with tularemia.

Officials say infection can also arise from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies).

Hunters who skin animals without gloves and are exposed to infected blood through an open wound are also at risk.

Typical signs of an infection in people include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain and coughing. Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If you have any of these early signs, you’re advised to contact your medical provider.

Dogs and cats can also get tularemia by eating infected rabbits or other rodents, as well as through tick and deer fly bites. If your pet shows symptoms of illness including fever, nasal and eye discharge, or skin sores, take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.

Recommended precautions include:

  • Do not handle sick animals. If a dead animal must be moved, follow the steps outlined above.
  • Leash your pets when outdoors and keep them away from dead animals.
  • When outdoors near places where wild rabbits or rodents are present, wear an insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Wear proper footwear outdoors where dead animals have been found.
  • Routinely use a tick and flea preventative on pets.
  • Avoid mowing over dead animals.

Recommended steps if you hunt, trap or skin animals:

  • Use impervious gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
  • Cook the meat of wild rabbits thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees F. or higher.

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